Charles III arrives in Northern Ireland for first visit as King | News

The British monarch arrives in Belfast, leading the final stage of mourning for his mother in the four corners of the United Kingdom.

King Charles III arrived in Northern Ireland, leading the mourning for Queen Elizabeth II in the four corners of the United Kingdom, before his mother’s coffin was flown to London four days ago for dedication.

Charles and Camilla, the Queen’s consort, were met at the airport on Tuesday by the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Dame Fionnuala Mary J-O’Boyle and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris.

People lined the streets of Hillsborough Castle, the monarch’s official residence in Northern Ireland.

“We came out to pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth because she was a fantastic queen and very loyal to Northern Ireland and we wanted to be here to welcome the new king,” said Heather Paul, 61, holding flowers and a small Union flag.

Joy Hutchinson, 34, said she hoped Charles would keep the UK together after some blamed Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union, among other things for loosening Britain’s ties with Northern Ireland.

Charles drove through the crowded streets of Hillsborough before leaving his car to shake hands with well-wishers as they chanted “God Save the King”.

Mixed feelings

The British monarchy causes mixed emotions in Northern Ireland, where there are two main communities: predominantly Protestant Unionists who consider themselves British, and predominantly Roman Catholic nationalists who consider themselves Irish.

A deep sectarian divide remains, a quarter of a century after the 1998 Northern Ireland peace deal.

But in a sign of how far Northern Ireland has come on the road to peace, representatives of Sinn Fein – the main Irish nationalist party associated during the Troubles with the IRA – are attending memorial events for the Queen and meeting the King on Tuesday.

King Charles III meets Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey and Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill at Hillsborough Castle,
King Charles III meets Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey and Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill at Hillsborough Castle [Niall Carson/Pool via Reuters]

The president and prime minister of the neighboring Republic of Ireland are also due to attend a memorial service in Belfast, despite strained relations between Dublin and London over Brexit.

Elizabeth died on Thursday at her holiday home at Balmoral Castle, in the Scottish Highlands, aged 96 after a 70-year reign, plunging the nation into mourning.

The Queen’s coffin will be flown to London on Tuesday evening and then taken to Buckingham Palace.

On Wednesday, it will be taken on a carriage as part of a grand military procession to Westminster Hall, where it will begin a period of lie-in until September 19.

Members of the public will be allowed to walk past the coffin, which will be draped by the royal standard flag with the sovereign’s orb and scepter placed on top, for 24 hours a day until the morning of the funeral.

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