Cheers erupted from the growing crowds of public mourners as the cortege passed through the gates and into the quadrangle where the Guards of the Household Division stood to attention, resplendent in their red tunics.
Myriad mobile phones and cameras held aloft had bathed the new state hearse in a sea of light, picking out the oak coffin which was draped with the Royal Standard and topped with white flowers.
Along the 14-mile route in to central London from the Queen’s arrival at RAF Northolt from Scotland, thousands had lined the streets oblivious to the downpours.
Umbrellas were lowered out of respect as the cortege passed, letting the evening raindrops mingle with tears running down the faces of many onlookers.
Some kept their emotions private and watched on in sombre silence, while others among the grieving bystanders applauded – some even launched bouquets onto the limousine’s bonnet.
Once inside Buckingham Palace – which was synonymous with Her Majesty even though she never really wanted it to be home – her children and grandchildren had private time with the coffin, joined by their spouses and by Princess Margaret’s children Earl Snowdon and Lady Sarah Chatto.
There will be further such family moments when the monarch, who died last Thursday aged 96, is laid to rest at Windsor next week.
Meanwhile, her coffin will be taken to the Palace of Westminster this afternoon. It will be entrusted to the nation to lie in state in Westminster Hall until Monday’s state funeral.
The Queen’s four children will process behind the coffin this afternoon, walking from Buckingham Palace to Parliament with grandsons Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips plus son-in-law Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, her cousin the Duke of Gloucester and nephew Earl Snowdon.
The Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Sussex and the Countess of Wessex will travel by car. The combined family will take part in a short service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury inside the Hall, marking the end of the Queen’s final journey from her beloved Balmoral where she died.
The Princess Royal, who had accompanied the coffin all the way, last night issued a heartfelt tribute to “my mother, the Queen”.
She said: “I was fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest mother’s life. It has been an honour and a privilege to accompany her on her final journeys. Witnessing the love and respect shown by so many on these journeys has been both humbling and uplifting.
“We will all share unique memories. I offer my thanks to each and every one who share our sense of loss. We may have been reminded how much of her presence and contribution to our national identity we took for granted.
“I am also so grateful for the support and understanding offered to my dear brother Charles as he accepts the added responsibilities of the monarch. To my mother, the Queen, thank you.”
Princess Anne, 72, and her husband Sir Tim, 67, joined 20 other members of the royal family led by the King and Queen Consort to receive the coffin last night.
They included the Duke of York as well as the Earl and Countess of Wessex; the Prince and Princess of Wales; the Duke and Duchess of Sussex; Peter Phillips, Zara and Mike Tindall; Lady Louise Windsor and her brother James, Viscount Severn; Princess Beatrice and her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, plus Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank.
An honour guard of three officers and 101 troops from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards gave a royal salute as the hearse was driven through the Palace quadrangle to the grand entrance, from where a bearer party of the Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards took the coffin to the Bow Room in the landmark building’s West Wing.
It bore the Royal Standard – the flag flown above Buckingham Palace when the monarch is in residence – having replaced the Royal Standard of Scotland on the flight from Edinburgh.
From inside came the strains of a lament played by the sovereign’s piper, Pipe Major Paul Burns of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
He piped daily at 9am for 15 minutes under the Queen’s window to wake her when she stayed in Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Balmoral or Holyroodhouse.
A few miles away on the cortege’s route, Beryl Dixon had waited on the rain-lashed A40 in Perivale, West London for two and a half hours to see the coffin pass.
The 76-year-old of Ealing was unflinching in her final act of devotion, saying: “I’m here to pay my respects on her last journey before she gets to Westminster. I did exactly the same thing for Diana.”