Britain's senior royals thank crowds outside Balmoral Castle

·2-min read

By Andrew MacAskill

BALMORAL, Scotland (Reuters) - Senior members of Britain's royal family greeted well-wishers on Saturday to thank them for their support as they stopped to read messages left among the flowers outside Balmoral Castle where Queen Elizabeth died.

The queen's oldest son - Charles - has become king and departed the estate on Friday for London, where he was officially proclaimed monarch on Saturday.

Her three other children - Anne, Andrew and Edward - joined their own families to attend church and then thank supporters who had queued to leave flowers outside the gates to the remote castle, deep in the Scottish highlands.

Princess Eugenie, one of Prince Andrew's daughters, was seen wiping away tears as she read messages attached to the bouquets, before being hugged by her father.

Anne, the queen's 72-year-old daughter, mouthed "thank you" to the crowd.

"It was a very emotional moment, it was very heartfelt," said Ian Smith, a local businessman who was at the front of the barriers. "It was really special that they came to acknowledge us and we could show them our support."

The death of Elizabeth, Britain's longest-reigning monarch after 70 years on the throne, has drawn an outpouring of tributes from home and abroad, with thousands gathering across the United Kingdom to show their respect and buildings and landmarks lit in red, white and blue around the world.

The Balmoral estate sits around 50 miles (80 km) from the nearest city of Aberdeen, spanning 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares) of forestry and farmland and long the queen's favourite summer retreat.

The family, many of whom had rushed to be by the queen's side as her health deteriorated on Thursday, turned to wave to the crowds before going back inside the gates of the estate.

Andrew, 62, who stepped down from royal duties in 2019 over his friendship with the late U.S. financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, bowed to the crowd with his palms touching.

"It was very sombre and understated, but it was a really special moment to see them," said Stephen Forgie, 57, a joiner, who had travelled for an hour to get to Balmoral.

"This is just such a huge, huge moment in history."

(Writing by Kate Holton; Editing by Frances kerry)