Comment: ‘Two of the most understated royals thanked the people of Manchester for their condolences’

At half past nine this morning, the square outside Manchester City Library was deserted as rush hour passed on a chilly, slightly grey day.

It was similar at St Ann’s Square, where preparations had been made by the now bleary-eyed volunteers, some of whom had worked from dawn.

The atmosphere was muted as the royal convoy pulled up to the city library. Prince Edward and his wife Sophie shook hands and spoke with people who passed on their condolences, before entering the library to sign the book of remembrance that has been there a week.

The couple then moved on to St Ann’s square. Just after 12pm, the sun emerged and the atmosphere was affectionate as they met the crowd, before they paused at a table with a selection of tributes laid out for them to inspect. Countess Sophie embraced a young boy, to the delight of his mother.

The bells of the town hall rang throughout, giving the afternoon a sombre tinge as Edward laid a bunch of flowers to join the mound of those dedicated to her majesty.

Then, with one more lap of the crowd and a final wave, they departed for the cathedral, their final stop.

Today was an opportunity for the people of Manchester to pay tribute to the late Queen, and it was one which they grasped firmly. Standing in St Ann’s Square it felt almost intimate as two of the royal family’s most understated royals thanked the people of Manchester for their condolences at this profoundly strange and sombre time.

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