LONDON: The crowd gathered outside Buckingham Palace to pay respects to the late Queen Elizabeth on Friday were rewarded with a surprise that brought cheers on a sombre day when King Charles came to shake hands and talk with dozens of well-wishers.
Thousands of people, from ordinary Britons to foreign tourists, had congregated outside the palace in London, as well as the other royal residences of Windsor Castle, just west of the capital, and Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands.
Many had laid flowers outside the residences, the piles growing higher as the day went on. Some people were in tears and hugged each other as they struggled with the shock and sadness at the queen s death at Balmoral on Thursday.
But when King Charles and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, arrived back at the palace in central London after flying down from Balmoral, they stepped out of the royal car just outside the gates.
The couple, dressed in black, were greeted with huge cheers and applause from the crowd. The king, flanked by security guards, proceeded to shake hands with well-wishers and look at floral tributes to his mother for more than 10 minutes.
The mood changed to joyful and gloomy faces broke out in smiles. Several members of the public sang “God save the King” and one shouted “Love you Charles!”
One woman kissed King Charles hand, while another leaned over the security barrier to hug him and kiss his cheek.
Joy Hounsome, 86, from Oxfordshire, said she acted on impulse when she kissed him.
“He didn t flinch,” she laughed. “He said thank you very much.” She said she felt a sense of mutual comfort. “I have every faith in him.”
She said she told him: “I m sorry for your loss” before she kissed his hand.
Denise Berriman, 73, from Stanstead, north of London, told Reuters: “I said thank you for coming and I’m so sorry , and he said thank you to me. Then I told Camilla to look after Charles, and she said I ll try .”