Islander seizes opportunity to pay respects to Queen in Edinburgh

·3 min read
King Charles III and members of the Royal family walk behind Queen Elizabeth II's coffin as it arrives at St Giles' Cathedral. (Owen Humphries/The Associated Press - image credit)
King Charles III and members of the Royal family walk behind Queen Elizabeth II's coffin as it arrives at St Giles' Cathedral. (Owen Humphries/The Associated Press - image credit)

A trip that Karen Rossiter had been planned for years turned into a chance to personally witness a piece of history this week.

The resident of St. Peters, P.E.I., had intended to visit Scotland with some cousins years ago to do some genealogical research, but the COVID-19 pandemic intervened.

Having finally made the trip, she found herself in Edinburgh at the same time the body of Queen Elizabeth II was lying in state at St. Giles' Cathedral.

"It was all happenstance," said Rossiter. "As we were driving from the Edinburgh Airport to our accommodation, our driver said, 'Oh yeah, you're just a 10-minute walk from St. Giles, so you'll be able to get to see what's going on."

There was excitement in the streets, she said. Throngs of people had shown up to pay their respects, and there were barricades everywhere, along with police officers and security teams. She and her cousins just started following the crowds, and found their way into the queue to get into the cathedral.

After two hours of waiting in the queue, as they approached the doors, she said the mood changed.

"Everybody started getting quieter because we were just in awe, and so humbled that we were actually going to be able to go pay our respects," she said.

The Queen's casket was on a pedestal in the middle of the cathedral, draped in the royal flag with flowers all around and the royal crown of Scotland sitting on top.

Pat Martel/CBC
Pat Martel/CBC

"It was such a surreal moment. It was absolutely wonderful," she said.

"She was the only queen I ever knew. It was heartbreaking but it was warm. It was almost like you were there with her and she was kind of thanking you as you walked by to pay your respects. It was really touching."

With the Queen's casket having been transferred to London on Tuesday, the barricades are now down and Rossiter's trip is returning to something more like what she had planned.

She will have some days in London at the end of her stay, and is planning a trip to Buckingham Palace to see the flowers laid there in the monarch's memory.

Memorial planning in Charlottetown

Meanwhile, a select group of Islanders will pay their own respects to the late Queen in Charlottetown on Monday, the day of the royal funeral.

Services will be held in in Anglican cathedrals across the country, and in Charlottetown that means St. Peter's Cathedral, where the Queen worshipped during a visit in 1973.

David Garrett, rector of St. Peters Cathedral, said it will be an opportunity for Islanders to come together.

"She was an inspiration to us to do better, so we'll miss her," said Garrett.

"We need to be together as Islanders. And that's one thing about worship. We are together in the same place, and we can identify immediately with the people participating. They are people we know from our community. And small is beautiful. That we do know each other as well as we do is a beautiful thing."

Because of limited space in the cathedral, Monday's 2 p.m. AT service will be by invitation only. It will be live-streamed for others to watch if they wish, on the Government of P.E.I.'s YouTube channel.