People’s determination to bid farewell to the late Queen Elizabeth and see her lying-in-state seems stronger than government warnings to stay at home to avoid standing in line for hours.
A steady, solemn stream of tens of thousands of people has already moved past the coffin with many more still queuing up. By mid-morning, the culture ministry said the waiting time stood at up to 16 hours to reach Westminster Hall to take part. This announcement followed an earlier statement by the ministry that it would suspend entry to the queue if demand became too high. “Please do not travel,” it added at 1 am (GMT 0000).
Those who have made it into the chamber where the coffin of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch is displayed on a high platform, turned towards it when reaching the middle of the room and bowed their heads in a show of respect or crossed themselves.
Among people who shared the struggle of persevering for hours, also overnight, to see the coffin, acts of kindness were abundant.
I paid my respects to The Queen yesterday. A profound experience. And the 7 and a half hour journey to Westminster Hall was made a very enjoyable one by these 8 lovely people I met in the queue. Danny, Frances, Jill, Gareth, Lisa, Mike, Sam, Lauren. pic.twitter.com/C1dB2oVraW
— Tim Vine (@RealTimVine) September 16, 2022
Filmmaker Matthew West recounted how a military man was offered the chance to jump the queue but refused. “That was the highlight. The lowlight was when we stood still for two hours and I lost the will to live,” Mr West said as cited by Reuters.
But many say the wait, however long and strenuous, was worth it. “It’s been worth every minute. Every minute,” 60-year-old estate agent Sarah Boniface told Reuters, with teary eyes, as she left Westminster Hall on Friday night after queuing up for 14 hours. “I’m so lucky to have paid my respects to the queen and seen our new king.”
23500 steps between joining ‘The Queue’ at 9pm Thurs evening and arriving at Westminster Hall at 6.15am Fri morning to pay our respects. History witnessed. pic.twitter.com/8qTWw186td
— Michelle (@michellegibney) September 17, 2022
For approximately 13 million Anglicans living in the UK, the death of Elizabeth II was not just the end of her political but also spiritual reign over them as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
For 62-year-old Hasmukh Vara his decision to stand for 13 hours to observe the lying-in-state reflected his desire to thank the late monarch – and Britain – after he moved to the country from Kenya in the 1970s.
“We came as refugees to this country,” he told Reuters. “For my entire lifetime, I am indebted to her because she gave us a home. It’s something we can never, ever forget. It’s a big deal to me and my family.”
David Beckham OBE has joined the queue to see Queen Elizabeth II Lying-in-State.
Like everybody else, he will have to wait in line for at least 14 hours and will not enter Westminster Hall until tomorrow morning.
— Royal Central (@RoyalCentral) September 16, 2022
Preparations for the funeral
The news of the Queen’s passing on September 8 left ripples of grief and disbelief not just across the UK but globally, eliciting emotional responses and a notion that an era drew to an end with the demise of Elizabeth II, who witnessed most of the 20th-century sociopolitical breakthroughs.
Having laid at rest in the Scottish capital for 24 hours the coffin was transported south to London, where tens of thousands of people crowded onto a normally busy road in driving rain to observe the flag-draped casket being driven to Buckingham Palace.
Friday night saw King Charles join his three siblings – Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward in a silent vigil at the coffin. Their eight children, including William and Harry, who have expressed the feeling of overwhelm by the reaction to their grandmother’s death, are set to form their own ceremonial guard later on Saturday.
Nearly 100 presidents and heads of government including those from Poland, the United States, France, Australia, Japan, Jamaica and Canada, are expected to take part in what will likely go down in history as one of the largest ceremonial events ever held in Britain.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already filed past the coffin on Friday, being one of the first leaders to arrive. The premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jason Kenney, described the gathering in central London as “this huge, diverse gathering of people from around the world”.
The state funeral is scheduled for Monday.
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