Death of Queen Elizabeth: King Charles III and Camilla visit Northern Ireland as thousands of mourners file past the queen’s coffin

This is Charles’s first trip to Northern Ireland as the new monarch of the United Kingdom, following in the footsteps of his mother, who was seen as a symbol of union and was a major figure during the Northern Ireland War peace process.

Tuesday’s historic visit saw the King arrive at the royal residence, Hillsborough Castle, where he greeted the public and viewed floral tributes. There he met with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris, and the leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties.

Charles and Camilla received a message of condolence from the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, to which the King replied: “In the years since she began her long life of public service, my mother has seen Northern Ireland It was going through momentous and historic changes. Throughout all those years, she never stopped praying for the best of times for this place and for the people of it.”

King Charles added that he would follow his mother’s example of dedicating himself “to his country and his people and to upholding the principles of constitutional government.”

Following the reception at the castle, the King and Queen will attend an evening service of prayer and reflection at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. They will be presented to religious and community leaders from across Northern Ireland. More than 800 people are expected to take part in the religious service.

His visit comes at a difficult time for Northern Ireland, where political tensions are high and key issues around Brexit remain unresolved.

While the majority of the country voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum, the UK’s ruling Conservative Party signed a Brexit deal that created new customs barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

How the queen's soft power has helped keep the UK together

Queen Elizabeth II was the monarch for 70 years of Northern Ireland’s 101-year history.

She was Queen during the bloody 30 years of violence known as “The Troubles”, which pitted UK unionists against Irish nationalists, with the British Crown emblematic of much of what divided the province.

Unionists are loyal to the Crown and to the traditional British values ​​they believe it enshrines. For Irish nationalists, it is the symbol of the British forces that subjugated their ancestors and annexed their land.

Louis Mountbatten, the last British viceroy in India and Charles’s favorite great-uncle, was assassinated by Irish Republicans along with several of his grandchildren in 1979.

The Queen publicly set aside those differences during a visit to Northern Ireland in 2012, shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, one of the Republicans most associated with past violence.
Charles also shook hands with Gerry Adams in 2015, seen as another milestone in the fragile peace process as Adams had been associated for a long time with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), once considered the armed wing of Sinn Fein that is now the biggest party in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein, the nationalist party that pushes for a united Ireland, did not attend King Charles’s proclamation at Hillsborough Castle on Sunday. The King and Queen Consort will return to London later on Tuesday.

People queue to see the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II as she rests in St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.
King Charles III, center, and other members of the royal family hold a vigil at the queen's coffin at St. Giles' Cathedral on Monday.

In Edinburgh, mourners queued outside St. Giles Cathedral on Monday night to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin inside the cathedral.

The cathedral queue was closed to the public on Tuesday afternoon. Later in the day, the Queen’s coffin is expected to be taken out of St. Giles and flown to London before being flown to Buckingham Palace to rest in the Bow Room for the night.

The Scottish government said more than 26,000 people were able to pay their last respects to the Queen.

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CNN’s Nic Robertson and Max Foster contributed to this report.

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