Queen makes post-vote unity plea
The Queen has delivered a message of reconciliation in the wake of the Scottish referendum, urging people to unite in their "enduring love of Scotland" and expressing her belief they will come together to "work constructively for the future".
In a detailed written statement issued from Balmoral, she said the "strong feelings and contrasting emotions - among family, friends and neighbours " provoked by the campaign would be "tempered by an understanding of the feelings of others".
The monarch hailed the country's robust democratic tradition and said the outcome of referendum, which came after months of discussion, debate and careful thought, would be respected throughout the UK.
She pledged to help people work together, saying: "My family and I will do all we can to help and support you in this important task."
Her statement will be seen as part of the process of reuniting the country following the heated debate by both sides during the campaign
The Queen, who was at Balmoral when she learned that the 307-year-old union of which she was crowned sovereign remained unbroken, remains neutral when it comes to political matters.
Her words will have been carefully chosen and the release of her statement timed to ensure all political leaders have already made their comments on the outcome.
She is head of state, but in her less formal role as head of the nation, the Sovereign acts as a focus for national identity and unity and offers a sense of stability and continuity.
The United Kingdom may remain intact as a union of four nations, but there are plans for further devolution to Scotland as well as a rebalancing of the representation of all the nations.
The Queen said: " For many in Scotland and elsewhere today, there will be strong feelings and contrasting emotions - among family, friends and neighbours.
"That, of course, is the nature of the robust democratic tradition we enjoy in this country. But I have no doubt that these emotions will be tempered by an understanding of the feelings of others.
"Now, as we move forward, we should remember that despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all.
"Knowing the people of Scotland as I do, I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support, to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country.
"My family and I will do all we can to help and support you in this important task."
It is not known how much of the referendum results the Queen watched personally or what time she learned that the No vote was victorious.
Buckingham Palace officials simply maintained she has followed the campaign very closely throughout. It is thought unlikely she stayed up through the night.
Her private office with her at Balmoral was kept regularly updated by officials in London and Edinburgh as the counting began and the votes were announced.
It is believed that the triumph of the No campaign has been met with much relief by the Queen and the rest of the royal family.
The words the Queen uttered on Sunday after attending morning church at Crathie Kirk appeared to urge voters to be cautious about severing the ties.
''Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future," she reportedly told a well-wisher in the crowd.
The Queen faced the prospect of becoming Elizabeth I of Scotland or even Elizabeth, Queen of Scots had the Scottish people voted in favour of independence, but Elizabeth II will go down in history as the monarch whose reign escaped the break-up of the United Kingdom.
As a 27-year-old, the Queen was crowned more than 60 years ago in a deeply religious service in Westminster Abbey during which she took a solemn oath to "govern the peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Her coronation promise was not one she took lightly and it was rich with significance for the young monarch.
Even her coronation gown demonstrated the importance of the union, with the intricate embroidery centring on the four emblems of the United Kingdom - the rose, the shamrock, the leek and the thistle.
It was poignant that the Queen was at her much-loved Scottish home, where she spends the summer months each year, when the people of Scotland turned down the chance of independence.
With her at Balmoral is the Duke of Edinburgh. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are also nearby - at Birkhall which sits on the estate.
The Queen's links to Scotland are strong and her Scottish heritage has been an important part of her life. Her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, hailed from an ancient aristocratic Scottish family.
After previous reports claimed the Queen was growing increasingly concerned about Scotland breaking away, Buckingham Palace issued a statement maintaining that she was above politics and that any suggestion she would wish to influence the outcome was categorically wrong.
During the Queen's Jubilee year of 1977 there were growing calls for power to be devolved to Scotland and Wales.
The Queen made her views clear in a speech to both houses of Parliament when she said she understood the aspirations of Scotland and Wales: ''But I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
''Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of this United Kingdom.''
Almost 40 years after the Queen made this pledge, Scotland decided it agreed with her.
The Queen has a life-long love of Scotland. She is descended from Mary, Queen of Scots, James I, who was James VI of Scotland, and Robert the Bruce, who secured Scotland's independence from England.
Even her husband's title connects her to Scotland - the Duke of Edinburgh. On their marriage, Princess Elizabeth also became the Duchess of Edinburgh.
She is apparently never happier than when she is at Balmoral where the royals spend their time riding, fishing or walking. It was handed down to her through generations of royals and bought for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852.