Estranged brothers Princes William and Harry put on a united front after they joined forces with wives Catherine and Meghan for an impromptu royal walkabout in Windsor.
In the first public appearance the royal couples have made together since the Queen died on Thursday, they spent more than half an hour speaking with well-wishers who had gathered to lay flowers in the castle grounds.
Onlookers remained silent as a mark of respect as the couples, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex hand-in-hand, read tributes to the Queen but broke into applause and cheers as they approached.
Harry’s natural charm and approachable persona was on display, a characteristic that made him one of the most popular royals, until his decision to step back from duties and move to the USA, opening a family rift that remains far from resolved.
The brothers were close for many years after the death of their mother Diana in a car crash in 1997, when William was 15 and Harry was 12.
However, their relationship was strained to breaking point by a series of interviews given by Harry and Meghan in recent months, while Prince William is said to be angry his sibling is working on an ‘intimate and heartfelt’ book about his life, set to be published later this year.
Moments earlier William had released a heartfelt tribute on social media to his beloved ‘Grannie’, his first public comment since the Queen’s death.
“I knew this day would come, but it will be some time before the reality of life without Grannie will truly feel real,” he said.
“She was by my side at my happiest moments. And she was by my side during the saddest days of my life.
“On Thursday, the world lost an extraordinary leader, whose commitment to the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth was absolute. So much will be said in the days ahead about the meaning of her historic reign.
“I, however, have lost a grandmother. And while I will grieve her loss, I also feel incredibly grateful. I have had the benefit of The Queen’s wisdom and reassurance into my fifth decade.
“My wife has had twenty years of her guidance and support. My three children have got to spend holidays with her and create memories that will last their whole lives.”
Earlier, other members of the Royal family met with well-wishers outside Balmoral Castle, after attending a private ceremony for the Queen at the local church of her favourite home.
Prince Andrew, now eighth in line to the throne, comforted his daughters as he spoke to crowds, along with siblings Princess Anne and Prince Edward.
They were joined Sophie, Countess of Wessex, said to be a favourite in-law of the Queen, Anne’s husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and the Queen’s grandchildren Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall and Lady Louise Windsor.
The Queen’s coffin will leave her beloved estate tomorrow to start its journey back to London, with a procession and church service in Edinburgh.
“We’ve been allowed one day and now we start the process of handing her on,” the Duke of York told well-wishers.