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Britons Mourn Queen Mother

Admirers of the Queen Mother Elizabeth lined up Sunday to sign books of condolence while the grieving royal family gathered at Windsor, where the royal matriarch died at 101. 

Churchgoers around the country prayed for the Queen Mother, who died Saturday, and for Queen Elizabeth II who has lost both her mother and her only sister, Princess Margaret, within seven weeks. 

British troops in Afghanistan joined in prayers at a Bagram Air Base service where military chaplain Rory MacLeod said, "We will most fondly remember her for the fact that at crucial stages of our history the Queen Mother has helped raise the morale of the U.K. [United Kingdom] and her allies." 

Flags flew at half-staff from Buckingham Palace to the Murrayfield rugby stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland, 50 miles south of Glamis Castle, the Queen Mother's ancestral home. 

Growing crowd of admirers stood in the cool, overcast morning outside Windsor Castle and some laid bright bouquets of spring flowers at the gates. 

At St. James's Palace, London, more than 50 people lined up silently waiting to sign condolence books. 

Marion Russell, 59, said she spent the night outside the gates of Buckingham Palace after leaving some flowers and lighting a candle in memory of the Queen Mother. 

"I saw the Queen Mother three or four times in my lifetime and she was a beautiful grand old woman who did so much for this country." 

A steady stream of people signed a condolence book at Sandringham House, the queen's estate in eastern England, before leaving floral tributes at the main gates. 

In Scotland, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, one of the first to arrive at the wrought-iron gates of the 15th century palace was American visitor Jason Gies. 

"The Queen Mother was a sign of strength, respect and brought out the values of what I think Great Britain is," the 29-year-old banker from New York City said. "Our countries have come together so much over the last six months I felt like I should do this." 

The Queen Mother, daughter of a Scottish earl, was very fond of Scotland and the feeling was returned. 

Visitors to Holyrood Palace laid flowers at the foot of a bronze statue of King Edward VII, grandfather of the Queen Mother's husband, George Vl. 

As the schedule of her Westminster Abbey funeral was organized, Prince Charles and his sons returned home from a vacation in Switzerland, and Prince Andrew returned from the Caribbean with his daughters. 

Although the timing of the funeral was not immediately announced, tentative plans are that the Queen Mother's coffin will be taken to London to lie in state before a Westminster Abbey service and the final return to Windsor for burial with her late husband, King George VI. 

The coffin will go first to the Queen's Chapel at St. James's Palace, close to Clarence House, the Queen Mother's London home. Here, members of the royal family will pay their private tributes. 

Then it will be taken to Westminster Hall and placed on a purple-draped catafalque where George VI lay in state in February 1952, and be guarded round the clock by a ceremonial contingent of Yeomen of the Guard. 

The public will be able to file by to pay their respects before the funeral at nearby Westminster Abbey. 

The coffin will then be taken by road to Windsor, where it will be interred in the black marble vault of the George VI Memorial Chapel, especially built at St. George's Chapel as the final resting place of the king. 

The George VI Chapel was dedicated in March 1969 and the king's remains were transferred there from the nearby vaults of the main chapel 17 years after his death. 

The Queen Mother, who joined the royal family in 1923 when she married the second son of King George V, led an active public life and was remarkably sprightly despite her age. She was a fixture at royal occasions, delighting in mixing with the public and greeting people. 

She had an especially close bond with the generation that lived through World War II, when German bombs rained down on London. They remembered her as the queen who endured the blitz with them and visited their shattered homes. 

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Queen Mother was a symbol of Britain's "decency and courage" and the whole nation would join with the royal family in mourning her death. 

Over two generations of dramatic social change and upheaval, through the abdication crisis that put her reluctant husband on the throne in 1936, the devastation of World War II and the royal family breakups of the 1990s, the Queen Mother emerged as a symbol of stability and modesty. 

Her husband, Prince Albert, Duke of York, was thrust unexpectedly onto the throne after his elder brother King Edward VIII abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. 

The Queen Mother was as popular at the end of her life as she had been a half-century before. 

The last years of her life were overshadowed by unhappiness within the royal family, as three of six her grandchildren divorced. The divorce of Princes Charles from Princess Diana and her death in 1997 in a car crash in Paris shook the British monarchy to its core amid widespread anger that the popular princess had been spurned by the royal family. 

The Queen Mother helped to shore up the throne, her quiet demeanor and public appearances helping to restore confidence in the royal family.