Queen: Mourner recalls seeing monarch lying-in-state
Thousands of mourners from all walks of life and all over the country are queuing for miles to file past the coffin of the Queen to pay their final respects to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. People have been waiting in line for hours overnight for the chance to view the Queen lying in state after it was handed to the care of the nation on Wednesday afternoon.
By mid-morning, the queue stretched about three miles along the south bank of the River Thames, crossing Lambeth Bridge as it neared Westminster Hall.
The coffin, which sits on a catafalque and is draped with a Royal Standard, continues to be guarded at all hours by units from the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division or Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London.
As King Charles III returned to his Highgrove home in the southern English county of Gloucestershire after days of scheduled events, officials expected about 750,000 people to view his mother’s coffin before the lying in state ends at 6.30am on Monday ahead of Her Majesty’s state funeral.
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By mid-morning, the queue stretched about three miles along the south bank of the River Thames
Some had travelled from abroad, dropping off bags at nearby hotels to join those moving slowly through Westminster Hall.
The largely black-clad crowd have been solemn and pensive as they flow into the ancient hall where chandeliers and spotlights illuminated the scene beneath the medieval timber roof.
As hundreds of ordinary people of all ages filed past the coffin of the long-reigning monarch, many wiped their eyes with tissues.
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People have travelled from all over the country to pay their respects
Some bowed, some curtsied and some simply took a moment to look at the extraordinary scene.
The Archbishop of Canterbury described witnessing thousands of mourners queuing to pay their respects to the Queen as “one of the most moving parts of the week”.
Justin Welby shook hands and posed for selfies with dozens of people who were waiting to view the Queen lying in state, and performed a blessing on a 10-year-old girl.
Before greeting those in line at The Victoria Tower Gardens in central London, the Archbishop said he was not at all surprised by the turnout and remembered the Queen as someone whose “wisdom was remarkable”.
He said: “She was someone you could trust totally, completely and absolutely, whose wisdom was remarkable, whose experience – I was the seventh Archbishop of Canterbury who she would have known – who really understood things and who prayed.”
Mr Welby also told reporters that seeing thousands of people flood to pay their respects had been “one of the most moving parts of this week”.
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Mourners continue to queue in their thousands
“In one sense, the people here stand for all those in the country who would like to be here and can’t be,” he said.
“I think it shows a sense of deep affection for the stability that the Queen represented and gave us.”
Mr Welby added that he was “not in the least” worried about a period of change under a new monarch and a new Prime Minister.
He added: “I’m very, very relaxed about that.”
“His Majesty the King is deeply committed to sticking with the constitution, and it’s very clear that the shift happened seamlessly.
“The strength of the way this country works is seen by the fact we lost both the prime minister and the monarch in a week and government just goes on.”
Three well-wishers who befriended each other in the queue said there had been a friendly “camaraderie” among the crowds, despite miserable weather, before an atmosphere of sombre reflection inside the hall.
Amy Harris, 34, and Matthew Edwards, 35, met James Cross, 65, after getting the train to London from Birmingham to join the queue at about 1am.
People have been lining the streets to see the Queen’s coffin
The Queen is lying in state ahead of her funeral on Monday
Mr Cross said: “Everyone in the queue was very friendly, chatting and having a laugh. It was really quite lovely.
“It’s just like the only person that’s there is you,” Mr Cross said. “You walk in and you could hear a pin drop.”
Mr Edwards said: “Everyone was offering biscuits, drinks,” adding that the three were now planning to have a pint together after the long wait.
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Ms Harris described the atmosphere in Westminster Hall as “breath-taking”.
She said: “When you’re able to go in and have a moment to look at it and reflect, the serenity of it – to be able to pay your respects in such a serene place, it’s very peaceful.”
Father Peter Walters, a priest who works in Colombia, and Pauline Allan, a charity worker, both from Yorkshire, joined the queue at 1.20am.
It was “immensely” worth the wait, Father Walters said, with the final experience “very personal” and different from viewing the coffin on the TV.
He added: “The atmosphere in there was one of absolute silence, great reverence, great respect and great reflection. It was really a very memorable experience.
“Everyone had the chance to pause – despite the queues, there was no great sense of rush.”
Ms Allan added: “We had a good five minutes from entering to leaving, it was so slow and dignified.”
Thousands are queuing in London to view Her Majesty’s coffin
Esme Martins, a retired judge, said among the sorrow there had been a sense in the queue of “celebration of a great life”.
Ms Martins, 65, said people from “all walks of life, all races and all ages” had been lined up to visit the Queen’s coffin.
“You made friends with the people around you and some of them I think we may in touch with. We exchanged numbers,” she said.
“People were quiet and sombre but there was also a sense of celebration of a great life”.
Ms Martins, from London, added that the coffin was “beautiful”, saying: “I think I will remember this day for the rest of my life.”