Four-kilometre queue as mourners file past Queen Elizabeth’s coffin
After a long and patient wait in the sun and rain, the first members of the public filed into the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II in London on Wednesday as she lay in state at 925-year-old Westminster Hall.
At the head of the four kilometer (2.4 mile) queue, well-wishers camped for 48 hours to pay their respects in front of the flag-draped coffin which had been brought from Buckingham Palace earlier in the day.
Sue Harvey, 50, an accountant, said after leaving the hall: “It was really quite quiet and incredibly emotional. A lot of people were crying, but there was total silence.”
“She is all I know. I wanted to make sure I saw her, no matter how long the queue was,” she told AFP.
In somber scenes, many people stopped and bowed to the casket. Others crossed themselves, or removed their hats.
Some prayed at the casket or wiped away tears with tissues. Some brought their infants in pushchairs. The old soldiers stopped and gave their last salute to their former commander-in-chief.
To the strains of funeral processions by military bands, King Charles III led the royal family in procession to Westminster Hall carrying the casket behind a horse-drawn gun carriage.
The new monarch, her siblings, and sons Princes William and Harry, followed the gun carriage at 75 paces a minute as Big Ben rang out from the Elizabeth Tower in the Houses of Parliament, and guns fired a formal salute from Hyde Park.
The state of repose began with a brief Anglican service, before black-clad members of parliament, including new prime minister Liz Truss, entered the casket, which will be on display around the clock for five days.
“Nobody wants to wait, but we kind of feel we owe the Queen something because she’s been there all our lives,” said Andrew Clyde, 53, who traveled exclusively from Northern Ireland. What was the trip?
“I’m willing to wait all night if necessary.”
The grand procession through the flag-draped heart of London represents the latest step in 11 days of complex national mourning that will conclude on Monday with the funeral of the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
The sight of the new monarch’s two grieving sons inevitably brought back memories of 1997, when William and Harry, aged just 15 and 12, bowed their heads behind the coffin of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. were walking
But it comes with the once-close brothers now estranged, after Harry stepped down from royal duties and moved to California with his American wife Meghan.
The public has been warned they will face an endurance test to see the Queen’s coffin with lines that can stretch back as much as 16km.
Waiting in line earlier in the day, Brian Flatman, 85, said there was “no way” he was going to pass up his chance to pay his respects after missing out on the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
“I was 16, we got there before midnight, Hyde Park Corner, fantastic position, but very soon I suddenly fell ill and had to crawl all the way to south London,” he recalled.
“This time there’s no way I’m going to be inclined. It’s a huge challenge for the Metropolitan Police and for me personally, but we’ve been preparing for many years,” said Mark Rowley, of the London Police Force. “I will dedicate a few seconds there (by the casket) to the dedication of his life. What an example,” the newly appointed head told Sky News Television.
Strict rules and airport-style security measures are in place, according to the government, expected to be “far more” than the 200,000 who died by the Queen Mother’s coffin in 2002.