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Sunday, 31 March, 2002, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
Thousands sign condolence books
Holyrood House, Edinburgh
Books have opened in London, Edinburgh and Norfolk
People wishing to pay their final respects to the Queen Mother have been queuing to sign books of condolence around the country.

At St James's Palace in London more than 2,000 visitors - among them many foreign nationals - had left their messages by mid-afternoon on Sunday.

She was a grand old woman who did so much for this country

Grandmother Marion Russell

The crowds flowed steadily through St James's Palace after waiting patiently for up to 30 minutes queuing in The Mall.

Visitors underwent stringent security checks before being allowed in the palace's Long Corridor where 16 books of condolence were laid out on tables for them to sign.

People have also been signing books at Holyrood House in Edinburgh and at Sandringham House in Norfolk.

Outside the gates of Clarence House, the official residence of the Queen Mother, hundreds of bouquets have been laid in her honour.

One of the cards on tributes read "You lived life to the fullest."

Tributes have also been pouring into BBC News Online, with more than 5,000 people e-mailing their messages to the Talking Point tribute page.

  Click here to read tributes

Sombre mood

In Cardiff and Belfast books are also being opened, while another will be opened at the Glamis Castle estate, in Angus, Scotland, on Easter Monday.

Some or all are expected to stay open until the day before the "ceremonial funeral" is held on Tuesday 9 April.

People began queuing from early morning
People began queuing from early morning

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

"I've always admired the Royal Family and the Queen Mother.

"She was very special and my grandmother was about the same age so I've always had a special connection with her."

Mrs Russell, of West Hampstead, north London, said she felt compelled to come to pay her respects.

"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."

'Common touch'

Well-wishers are leaving their name, address and a message of condolence in the leather bound books.

Tribute left outside Clarence House
Well-wishers left personal messages
Tony Wrighton-Edwards said: "She had the common touch."

He recalled how he was at a function in Hyde Park once where the Queen Mother recognised someone in the crowd and stopped to have a chat.

"That's the sort of person she was."

One visitor, Ted Larkin, 81, appeared dressed in a clown's costume for his own special tribute.

Mr Larkin, of Wandsworth, south London, who raises money for charity under the guise of Garibaldi the clown, said: "I'm dressed as a clown because that's how the Queen Mother knew me.

"Since 1981 I've come to Clarence House on her birthday whenever she was at home and when she came out and greeted the crowds she would sometimes say, 'Are you here again?' and I'd reply, 'Yes Ma'am'. And she would say, 'Lovely to see you"'.

Many foreign nationals, either on holiday or living in the UK, also queued to pay their respects.

International respect

The Spanish Charge d'Affaires made a brief visit to the palace and said: "I'm just here to pay my respects."

The Darmanin family, from Sliema, Malta, took a break from their week-long stay in England to sign the books of condolence.

Francis Darmanin, 46, with his wife Johanna, 37, and their two children Jude, 11, and Luke 10, said: "We admired the Queen Mother and since we had the morning free we decided it would be nice to come here.

"We feel the British connection very strongly in Malta.

"The island was used as a British base during the war and we know that the Queen Mother played an important part during those troubled times."

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See also:

30 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Parliament to be recalled
30 Mar 02 | UK
Public vigil in Westminster
31 Mar 02 | UK
Queen Mother dies
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