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The people of Edinburgh reflect on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Everyone knew Britain's Queen Elizabeth was likely to die soon. She was 96. Yet for many, it's still a shock. NPR's Philip Reeves filed this report from the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, where the queen is expected to lie at rest in the coming days.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: It's hard to grasp the scale of the loss many British people feel right now. Some themselves find it hard to fathom.

ROBIN CARR: I've been very moved since I heard the news yesterday. When the news actually broke, I was far more moved than I anticipated.

REEVES: That's Robin Carr, a retired businessman. We're outside Holyroodhouse, the 16th century palace that was the queen's - and is now the king's - official residence in Scotland. Carr could have stayed home watching the TV coverage. Yet...

CARR: I just felt compelled to come and be part of a group of people who are probably thinking much the same as me. And it's helping me deal with it, to come down and see other people grieving - with a small g - but grieving for the loss of someone very special.

REEVES: A crowd mills around outside the palace gates. People are laying down flowers. Health worker Elysha Scott is here with her husband, Bradley. I ask her why she came.

ELYSHA SCOTT: I don't know. I was very, very upset when the news, you know, came out last night, and we just wanted to come and pay our respects.

BRADLEY SCOTT: Yeah, the first thing on your mind this morning.

SCOTT: Yeah.

REEVES: Not far away is Robert Milligan, a retired Scottish infantryman, clad in tartan trousers. Milligan was watching "The Simpsons" when Queen Elizabeth's death was announced.

ROBERT MILLIGAN: When it came up, oh. And I turned it on, and I went, oh, no, it's not real. But it is real.

REEVES: I can see you're pretty upset about it.

MILLIGAN: Oh, yeah. It's just like, we had somebody to love.

REEVES: Those who don't particularly revere Britain's royals or believe its monarchy should be abolished can find the intensity of these emotions puzzling. Yet for Milligan, it's about who the queen was.

MILLIGAN: She was, like, personal to everybody, even if we came from the smallest village. She was just, like, everybody's mummy. And everybody loved her.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Edinburgh. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.