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The countryside pays its respects to HM the Queen, including pallbearing gamekeepers

The rural and shooting communities have paid their respects to Her Majesty the Queen, as the country observed a period of official mourning writes Matt Cross

Her Majesty’s funeral, which was held on Monday, saw the country fall silent in honour of her 70 years of dedicated service to the nation. In the days immediately following Her Majesty’s death tributes poured in from fieldsport and countryside lovers and organisations. In Lincolnshire, local shooters fired a 96 gun shot gun salute to mark Her Majesty’s life and villages, clubs and organisations sent a tidal wave of floral tributes to the royal palaces.

Keen-eyed observers noted that the last photograph taken of the Queen showed her leaning not on a crutch or cane, but on the simple and traditional antler-topped stick well known and used in the countryside. The late Queen’s deep and abiding relationship with that countryside and with fieldsports was symbolised by the role of the Balmoral estate gamekeepers.

Traditionally, gamekeepers are among the first to stand vigil over the coffins of members of the Royal Family and did so for both the Queen Mother and Prince Philip. This tradition too was observed with keepers standing vigil over Her Majesty’s coffin. In an additional and striking mark of respect the keepers, not military personnel, then acted as the first pallbearers carrying Her Majesty from Balmoral Castle to the waiting hearse.

Among the first of many honour guards to greet the hearse as it passed through the Scottish countryside was one drawn up of the tractors of Aberdeenshire farmers. Later mounted members of a local hunt sat in silence with heads bowed as the cortege passed by. In advance of the funeral, BASC issued advice to shoots saying that shoots and individual sportsmen and women should consider, “the impact of their activities on neighbours and other countryside users,” adding: “As a mark of respect, we advise wherever possible shooting should not take place on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.”

Shooting Times understands that the guidance was widely observed with shoot days cancelled and only essential wildlife management activities taking place.