Theresa May’s first words to staff moments after she turned away from the cameras following a teary resignation speech have been revealed.
And seconds later, as she went back through the door of Number 10, Mrs May was greeted by a round of applause from staff.
The emotional leader then told them: “I’m sorry.”
According to the Daily Mail , one aide told her: “It’s not you who should be apologising, Prime Minister.”
Her husband Philip, who had stood just out of shot while she made the speech, then rushed to comfort her.
They couple were seen heading to her private office where the fallen leader responded to messages from friends and world leaders.
After spending a few minutes in the office, she headed up to Downing Street’s famous Pillared Room to speak with her special advisers.
In another emotional address, she thanked her husband, chief of staff and said a few words about how much the top job in politics had meant to her.
One onlooker told the paper: “It was a bit emotional but it was a nice moment.
“Away from the glare of the cameras she spoke about just how much it had meant to her.
“It was typical of her that, on an enormously difficult day for her, she took the time to come and talk to us and give a speech that left everyone in the room coming away feeling a bit better.”
After that meeting, where some staff also began crying, she and her husband headed to their home in Berkshire.
They will spend the weekend relaxing at her country retreat in Chequers before returning to the fray next week.
Speaking to the country yesterday, Mrs May admitted finding a new Prime Minister was now in “the best interests of the country”.
She said it was a matter of “deep regret” that her Brexit deal failed three times, adding: “I have done everything I can to convince MPs to back that deal. Sadly I have not been able to do so.”
Her voice choked with emotion as she said: “I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold.
“The second female Prime Minister, but certainly not the last.”
Her voice broke as she said: “I leave with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to have served the country I love.”
It is understood the Prime Minister decided to quit on Wednesday after facing a Cabinet revolt on her Brexit plan.
She gathered colleagues together in her office that evening and said the game was up.
Mrs May then started work on her goodbye speech before heading to Buckingham Palace to inform the Queen of her decision and start the clock ticking on a Tory leadership contest.
But in a warning to her successor, she told the nation: “It will be for my successor to seek a way forward that honours the result of the referendum.
“To succeed, he or she will have to find consensus in Parliament where I have not. Such a consensus can only be reached if those on all sides of the debate are willing to compromise.”
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the front runners to succeed her, with the ex-Foreign Secretary leading the field, according to bookies.
This morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also threw his hat in the ring.
Mr Johnson has said he would be prepared to back a no-deal departure to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31.
The timetable for the contest will see nominations close in the week of June 10, with MPs involved in a series of votes to whittle down what is set to be a crowded field to a final two contenders.
Tory party members will then decide who wins the run-off.
The leadership race exploded into life this morning, with Cabinet minister Rory Stewart launching an attack on Mr Johnson.
As the battle heated up, International Development Secretary Mr Stewart said he could not serve in a government led by Mr Johnson because of his stance on a possible no-deal exit from the EU.
The comments came as Labour insisted it would force a Commons vote of no confidence in the new prime minister as soon as possible.
As Tory tensions rose, Mr Stewart told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme a no-deal exit would be “damaging and dishonest”.
He said: “I could not serve in a government whose policy was to push this country into a no-deal Brexit. I could not serve with Boris Johnson.
“I spoke to Boris, I suppose, about two weeks ago about this and I thought at the time he had assured me that he wouldn’t push for a no-deal Brexit.
“So, we had a conversation about 20, 25 minutes and I left the room reassured by him that he wouldn’t do this.
“But, it now seems that he is coming out for a no-deal Brexit.”
Mr Stewart said there was no majority in the Commons for no deal, stating: “I think it would be a huge mistake. Damaging, unnecessary, and I think also dishonest.”