The woman in that ornate box, draped in the Royal Standard with the Sovereign’s Crown and Sceptre of State sitting atop, had been our Monarch, an unchanging head of state, the image that met us everyday on our stamps and currency, for the entirety of the lives of most of us.
And, in tribute to that extraordinary service, thousands came from all corners of the realm to pay their respects.
Hundreds upon hundreds gradually walked past, some with heads bowed, others signing the cross, most with grim faces, the odd muttered prayer.
There were tears. A lady decked completely in black could not contain her sobs as she gazed upon Her late Majesty’s coffin.
Many others were wiping the tears from their faces, red from crying.
As I entered Westminster Hall, the three-mile-line of those who wanted to say goodbye linked the two cities of the capital, the Cities of London and Westminster, from Tower Bridge to the Palace of Westminster. They walked, came on mobility scooters and in wheelchairs.
Entering the great 11th century Westminster Hall the queue split in two and people processed steadily on either side down the very steps where the Queen herself once addressed the joint Houses of Parliament and just last Saturday her son and heir King Charles received the addresses from the two Houses.
Westminster Hall is no stranger to history. Even though it had been scrubbed and cleaned very recently, the annals of time it has witnessed cannot be wiped away.
There is barely a building in the world which has seen more since its great doors first opened in 1097.
The original parliament, the place where William Wallace, St Thomas More and Charles I were tried and condemned to death, the venue for speeches to joint sittings of both houses by Pope Benedict, Barack Obama and of course the late Queen herself.
It is also where momentous people await their final resting place lying in state – King George VI; Sir Winston Churchill; Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; and now Queen Elizabeth II after more than 70 glorious years on the throne.
But this was more than a coffin in an historic setting or even someone who was part of history.
Looking on at the sombre queue of those who had come to pay their respects, representatives of many nations and cultures including those both young and old were present.
There were English, Scots, Welsh and Irish but also Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Indians and many more.
Some came in their everyday clothes, others in full morning dress, there were black arm bands, black ties and black dresses, some with medals, a couple in Union Jack T-shirts.
Some hugged each other and others held hands, some were just in singular contemplation.
It is hard to imagine what other person at any time in history could inspire such awe and reverence or whether there has ever been such an event or will be again.
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Every individual there and for the next four days of a never ending 24/7 queue had been touched by this Monarch’s remarkable reign whether they had met her personally or not.
And indeed at the scene of remembrance there were many visible reminders of her late Majesty.
The fountain the queue passes was erected for her silver jubilee; deep chimes of Big Ben marking the hour echo from the tower renamed in her honour; the very light shining down from a sun setting on an era on the coffin flooded through the great stain glass window installed to mark her diamond jubilee.
But nothing is more poignant than the sight of the coffin laying in rest in the middle of the great hall, draped in Royal standard with the Crown sat upon it for the departed Sovereign.
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In the moving mass of mourning, only one group stayed still – the Grenadier Guards, Lifeguards and Beefeaters charged with the vigil around the coffin.
Through 20-minute shifts, they stood heads bowed, weapons ready and as still as statues.
It is estimated 400,000 people will make this journey to pay their last respects.
If anything could be described as an awesome sight, this truly was it, as people came for one last precious memory of a woman who has been a constant part of their lives.
Above the stream of humanity and Her late Majesty carved in the ancient timbered ceiling built for Richard II were the very angels that King Charles III had wished would “sing darling mama to her rest”.