WHEN the pipes fell silent, the only sound was the steady rhythm of footsteps moving in perfect harmony.

Hard soles and metal horseshoes made drumbeats on the ancient cobblestones of Edinburgh’s Old Town, a backdrop steeped in ancient royal history and now the theatre for a modern chapter.

Any gentle chatter in the crowd fell almost instantly silent as the hypnotic noise of the march approached, the sound preceding the sight of the hearse bearing the Queen’s casket draped in the bright yellow of the Royal Standard.

Mirroring scenes from Sunday, when Her Majesty’s coffin was brought from Balmoral to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, crowds lined the path along the length of the Royal Mile.

The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II arrives at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh for a Service of Prayer and Reflection for her life
Picture: Russell Cheyne/PA Wire

Bagpipes accompanied the pallbearers who carried the oak casket from the Palace to the hearse before the procession moved off soundlessly on its route to a Service of Thanksgiving in the High Kirk.

Shortly after the cortege left Holyroodhouse, a woman’s cry of “God Save the Queen” exploded in the calm before a respectful silence took hold.

Behind their mother, Charles, then Anne, Andrew and Edward marched in perfect step, in this moment both King and son, Princess Royal and daughter, two dukes and youngest brothers.

Their faces serious, they marched in a relentless sway along the High Street past crowds 10 deep in places.

Some gently applauded, some stood perfectly still. There was hardly a whisper and few tears.

For some, fealty had brought them out; for others, sheer curiosity.

"I just wanted to see it," said Anne-Caroline Dumas.

The 28-year-old is on holiday in Scotland and travelled from Glasgow to witness the procession.

"I'm with friends but they had no interest so I took the train this morning alone.

"It was worth travelling through for.

"President Macron gave a speech, saying how admired Queen Elizabeth is in France.

"I'm sure that was diplomacy as much as anything but yes, we do like her in France.

"But, for me, this was about witnessing history.

"Who would turn away from an opportunity to see this?"

Away from the High Street the usual confusion of tourists milled around, attempting to navigate the usual tangle of Old Town closes, made impenetrable by police barricades.

At the base of famously undulating Cockburn Street, officers shared their ignorance over available routes and closed roads, saying that they had been bused in from elsewhere and were not from Edinburgh. 

One officer Google mapped directions for a couple who were lost; others were less helpful.

A police officer lining a barrier told an enquiring Italian couple they had come from the west coast of Scotland, from Greenock. “A tourist attraction in itself.”

Plenty of those witnessing the procession were tourists to the city but one man, who asked not to use his name, had not come far at all.

He had travelled with his son and daughter from the outskirts of the capital to ensure his children witnessed history also.

He said: "I'm not going to be popular with their teachers as I've taken them out of school but this is a once-in-a-lifetime event happening maybe three or four miles from our front door.

"I think they'll learn more from being here today, watching part of the last journey of the longest-serving monarch than anything they might have picked up in the classroom today."

Along from where the dad and his two children stood, a minor scuffle broke out when a protestor heckled Prince Andrew.

"Andrew, you're a sick old man," was shouted before a man was removed by police and detained.

It was the only break in an otherwise entirely peaceful and gentle event.

Karen Dunlop, standing in the Edinburgh sunshine, had her daughter on her shoulders in an attempt to see over the crowds lining the barriers along the Royal Mile.

"We didn't get here early enough," the 39-year-old said.

"My own fault. My husband told me it would be chaos but I didn't think it would be too busy.

"I hear myself and realise that sounds extremely naive - it could hardly be more busy."

Mrs Dunlop, who travelled down from Fife, took the day off work to be at the event in Edinburgh but hadn't planned particularly well ahead.

She added: "It was really important for me that my daughter was here today.

"She's only two, so of course she doesn't have a great understanding of what's going on.

"But that's not really the point.

"I want her to be able to say that she was here - it's something she can tell her children and tell her grandchildren.

"It's one of those - 'where were you when' sort of stories.

"My other wee girl is in primary one and I didn't want to take her out of school so I hope that doesn't cause too much sibling rivalry.

"I'm taking loads of pictures to show her anyway."

At the other end of the generational spectrum, George Frank was brought to see the procession by his adult son.

Mr Frank, now 82, has a deep affection for the royal family and was a life-long fan of Queen Elizabeth.

He said: "I remember her as a girl and, of course, myself as a boy.

"You look in the mirror and wonder who that old man is - seeing Her Majesty as an older lady always reminded me of my own passing years.

"We are so fortunate in this country to have a royal family who are so special and the Queen was the most special of them all.

"I feel sore for her grandchildren. She's a real loss to William and to Harry as a role model and the glue holding them together.

"I was pleased to see those two boys outside the palace together.

"I hope this sadness of losing their nan brings them closer again."

Along the route the sun shone and the sound of marching was joined by more affectionate applause as the procession neared its end.

Finally at St Giles' Cathedral, the hearse was opened again and the coffin lifted to the kirk, the inscrutable faces of the pallbearers showing how they carried the literal and figurative weight of history on their shoulders.