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MARTEL MAXWELL: What I learned from the crowds paying their respects to the Queen

photo is screengrab from a television news report showing the presenter Martel Maxwell interviewing a woman waiting to pay her respects to the Queen in Edinburgh.
Martel reported on the crowds waiting in Edinburgh to pay their respects to thr Queen.

You could hear the slight surprise in the TV commentator’s voice as the Queen’s cortège made its way along the Kingsway in Dundee.

No one really knew how many would gather to pay their respects. A modest turn-out, perhaps, with gatherings here and there.

But the Kingsway is one heck of a stretch of road. So large intervals with no crowds were to be expected.

And yet, the lines of of people went on – and on.

In many parts, those lines were three deep – and in places, three-deep again up a small incline.

Image shows the writer Martel Maxwell next to a quote saying: "She changed the stories of families - the stories handed down over generations. In many cases, she changed lives."

“This is astonishing,” the presenter said from a studio in London. “We are covering miles and miles here – and still the crowds continue.”

I saw numerous people on Twitter saying Dundee had done Queen Elizabeth II proud.

Like many, I have no doubt the Queen planned to spend her final days in Balmoral and to make this final journey through her beloved Scotland.

Several years ago, while filming in Aberdeenshire, I noticed a large procession of official looking cars, led by police motorbikes, pass by.

A local told me it happened every now and then – a planning of the route with military precision for the Queen’s cortège.

photo shows a crowd of adults and children behind a fence by the side of the A90 as the hearse carrying the Queen's coffin passes through Dundee.
A crowd gathered to watch as the Queen’s coffin passed through Dundee on Sunday. Steve Brown / DCT Media

She loved Scotland. She had more Scottish blood and heritage than English.

And when it came to her death, the eyes of the world fell here – to the breathtaking beauty of Royal Deeside and beyond.

My honour to be among the crowds for the Queen

The world watched as the approach to Dundee began and a panoramic view from above showed the majesty of the River Tay and our V&A

Our city looked incredible.

I had taken a call the day before – one that filled me with honour – asking if I would help with live reporting of the Queen’s cortège in Edinburgh for the BBC.

And so on Monday, I interviewed some of the thousands who had queued to pay their respects by passing the Queen’s coffin as she lay in state at St Giles’ Cathedral.

Photo shows the writer and TV presenter Martel Maxwell speaking to a TV camera while interviewing a group of women.
Martel interviewing the crowds awaiting the arrival of the Queen’s coffin in Edinburgh.

Sue from Cardiff was seven minutes old when Elizabeth took to the throne.

Jane, from London, was five when the coronation was televised and watched with hundreds of people on a black and white screen in the telly-making factory where her dad worked.

Sean, from Durham, had been in the army. He wanted to pay his respects – and also to represent his friends who lost their lives fighting for Queen and country, adding quietly: “They’d have liked that.”

One little girl clutched a photo of her great grandad with the Queen.

Queen deserves respect, as do her mourners

Many of the people I spoke to had met her.

Every single one of them told a similar version of the encounter – how they had felt overwhelmed but she looked them in the eye, making them feel they were the most important person in the world in that moment.

Photo shows a screengrab from the television with the presenter Martel Maxwell speaking into a microphone in front of a crowd of people on the street in Edinburgh.
Martel was honoured to be asked to report from Edinburgh as the Queen’s coffin arrived in the capital.

What struck me was the multi generational appeal she had.

And while younger people were there for themselves, many were also there to honour a relative who loved the Queen.

She changed the stories of such families – the tales handed down over generations.

In many cases, she changed lives.

But it was a lady originally from Montrose, who now lives near Nairn, who straight-talked to the heart of the matter – the political complexities in Scotland that this period has raised.

Grief needs no explanation

There had been a protestor shouting at mourners as this lady got off the train at Waverley, she explained.

“It annoys me when people make my grief for the Queen political,” she told me.

“It’s not. I loved the Queen and whether you loved Ziggy Stardust or Ronnie Corbett, I’d never dream of stopping you.”

She went on: “All these people love the Queen – a person who was very special to me –  and I am allowed that opinion.

“You don’t have to have it – in which case you don’t have to be here.

“If you’ve got a problem with that – if you want to stop people showing respect to another human being, frankly the problem is yours.”

It’s hard to fathom or to put into words why she meant so much to so many. But then, why should there be a need to explain?

As the Queen once said, grief is the price we pay for love.”