Nation in mourning for a national icon

A NATION is in mourning.Flags fly at half mast, flowers are laid, tributes paid and books of condolences signed as, up and down the country, people pay their respects to the Queen Mother.

A NATION is in mourning.

Flags fly at half mast, flowers are laid, tributes paid and books of condolences signed as, up and down the country, people pay their respects to the Queen Mother.

While the Royal Family comes together for their own period of mourning, the rest of the country is doing its bit to honour the life of the much-loved 101-year-old, who died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday.

The Queen Mother was remembered at church services across the country at the weekend and the State Bell was rung for one hour at St Paul's Cathedral on Sunday. The bell, known as Great Tom, was last sounded seven weeks ago after Princess Margaret's death.

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Books of condolences have been opened at St James's Palace, London, Sandringham House Visitor Centre, Norfolk, and at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, and thousands of people are expected to sign them over the coming days.

Others have left bunches of flowers and messages at the gates to the country's royal residences.

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And the public will have further opportunity to pay their respects to the Queen Mother when her body is laid in state in the medieval setting of Westminster Hall, in London, for three days before her funeral at 11.30am on April 9.

Her coffin will rest in the Royal Chapel of All Saints, Windsor Great Park, until tomorrow when it will be taken to Queen's Chapel, at St James's Palace.

On Friday it will then be carried in a ceremonial procession to Westminster Hall where, placed on a purple-draped wooden frame, it will lie in state until the evening of April 8.

It will be the same spot where her husband, King George VI, lay in state and will be guarded day and night by a contingent of Gentleman at Arms and Yeomen of the Guard.

Members of the public will be able to queue to file past the coffin during that time and crowds of people are expected to take the opportunity to pay their respects in this way.

A ceremonial funeral service in Westminster Abbey will then take place on April 9, conducted by the Dean of Westminster.

Following the service the Queen Mother's coffin will be taken, by road, to Windsor and it is thought its arrival will be signalled by the tolling of the Sebastopol bell, which was captured from the Russians in the Crimea War.

Once there the Queen Mother will be buried beside her husband in the King George VI Memorial Chapel. Princess Margaret's ashes, which have been resting in the Royal Vault, will also be interred with her mother and father.

In accordance with the Queen Mother's wishes there will be no official memorial service but national mourning will be observed up to the day of her funeral.

Family mourning will be observed by members of the Royal family until April 19, after Princess Margaret's Memorial Service. During this period, the Queen and other family members will continue to carry out their official duties, although some engagements may be postponed or cancelled.

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