Prince reflects on 'unstoppable grandmother'

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The Prince of Wales paid a tribute to his "magical grandmother" yesterday and said of the death of the 101-year matriarch that "somehow, I never thought it would come".

Prince Charles invited journalists to his Highgrove home in Gloucestershire to reflect on a life of love and laughter with his "gloriously unstoppable" grandmother. Behind him, as he spoke, was a photograph of the Queen Mother in one of her trademark feathered hats signed: "With much love, Granny 1976".

A tribute was also paid by Pope John Paul II, who sent "heartfelt" condolences to the Royal Family and to the nation, saying the Queen Mother had always given strength to her people. He said in a message addressed to the Queen: "Through a tormented century, Her Majesty never ceased to be firm and graceful, giving much strength to the British people, who now mourn her death just as deeply as they thought highly of her when she was alive."

The tributes came after the Queen and her daughter, Princess Anne, ventured out during their private mourning to ride horses in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Accompanied by a groom, they rode alongside each other at a slow walk.

Bank Holiday Monday crowds witnessed a series of 41-gun salutes as the armed forces paid their respects. Thousands of people saw and heard the traditional salute echo across 12 locations in the UK and Gibraltar over 40 minutes from noon. Hundreds more signed books of condolence while a mound of flowers grew steadily at Windsor, where the Queen Mother died on Saturday.

British sport paid its respects as a full programme of Bank Holiday football matches were marked by a minute's silence before kick-off and clubs asked players to wear black armbands. Rugby League followed suit, observing a minute's silence before kick-off at four Super League games and four National League Cup games.

There will be no racing in Britain on Tuesday next week, the day of the funeral. The British Horseracing Board has announced the cancellation of scheduled meetings at Pontefract, Exeter and Southwell. Kempton, the scene of one of her biggest wins as an owner, joined 14 other courses in a minute's silence yesterday. The Surrey track's usual blue racecard had a black cover and the Union flag flew at half-mast on a course where Manicou, the horse of Queen Elizabeth, as she then was, won the 1950 King George VI Chase – named after her husband. The jockeys rode in black armbands, brought from Epsom where they were worn in the aftermath of the atrocities of 11 September.

Aintree racecourse in Liverpool announced plans to pay tribute on all three days of this week's Grand National meeting. Jockeys will wear black armbands and a one-minute silence will be held when horses are at the post on Thursday and Friday.

Britain's bookmakers are considering closing betting offices on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect.

A Conservative MP said a public holiday should come to mark the anniversary of her death or her funeral, or another appropriate date. It should be named Queen Mother's Day, said Sir Patrick Cormack, MP for South Staffordshire.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will be recalled on Thursday morning as a mark of respect. Leaders of the political parties have been given 10 minutes each to pay tribute.