Excited school children eagerly waved Saltires and whispers of “she’s here” caught the wind on the southside of the Queensferry Crossing yesterday as the Queen arrived to a military fanfare to officially open the new bridge.
Her Majesty greeted the gathered crowds of officials and the local community where she took a moment to talk to pupils from nearby primary schools, before cutting the ribbon on the £1.35 billion road bridge.
The Queen, accompanied by Prince Philip on his first official appearance alongside her since retiring from solo royal engagements last month, then travelled by car across the bridge before giving a speech to an audience of 4,000 on the north side.
She praised the “breathtaking sight” of three magnificent structures across the Forth before unveiling a plaque.
Her Majesty then returned to the Firth of Forth to formally open the new structure 53 years to the day after opening the neighbouring Forth Road Bridge.
She said the new bridge would be an “important link” between the Lothians and Fife.
“The three magnificent structures we see here span three centuries, are all feats of modern engineering and a tribute to the vision and remarkable skill of those who designed and built them,” she said.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Your Majesty, we are honoured that you are here with us today.
“You, supported by the Duke of Edinburgh, have been at the centre of many key moments in Scotland’s national life.
“We are delighted that you are also at this one.
“On the day that your great-grandfather opened the original Forth Bridge in 1890, he declared it as a ‘wonder of the age’.
“When you opened the Forth Road Bridge in 1964, you said that it showed Scotland’s determination to ‘remain among the leaders in all branches of technology’.
“Today, this magnificent Queensferry Crossing takes its own place as a modern marvel.”
Ms Sturgeon also addressed the crowd, saying the creation of the bridge was an “outstanding achievement”.
As she thanked those involved in the project, she told them: “The nation’s heart is bursting with pride at what you have achieved.”
The RAF’s display team, the Red Arrows, marked the occasion with a fly-past over the bridge, trailing red, white and blue smoke across the sky.
A concert saw Fife musicians KT Tunstall and King Creosote and Roddy Hart and The Lonesome Fire and Karine Polwart perform to an audience of 4,000 as part of a celebratory event in Rosyth.
Church of Scotland Moderator The Right Rev Dr Derek Browning was also present to bless the structure.
The formal ceremony was the high point in a week of events marking the opening of the structure – the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world – more than a decade after plans were drawn up and after six years of construction work. On Monday of last week, the 1.7-mile crossing was illuminated by a night-time light show to reflect the symbolic handover from contractors to the Scottish Government.
The first cars drove over the structure in the early hours of Wednesday, with many motorists sounding their horns as they travelled over it.
The bridge closed again on Friday to allow 50,000 people the “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to walk over it at the weekend.
The Queensferry Crossing reopens to traffic on Thursday.