Sophie Wingate and Miriam Burrell
Wed, 14 September 2022 at 9:30 pm
Thousands of people filed past the coffin of the long-reigning monarch on Wednesday evening. Many were seen crying and comforting each other as the enormity of her death sunk in.
Some nodded at the coffin and bowed their heads, others stood in quiet contemplation, not wanting the moment to pass. It is a rare phone-free zone, as electronic devices are forbidden inside.
The Queen’s lying in state began at 5pm on Wednesday and it’s expected tens of thousands will pour into London and queue along the South Bank over the next four days before her state funeral on Monday.
The King, his siblings, children and other members of the Royal Family followed the Queen’s coffin in a procession that lasted almost 40 minutes as it travelled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall after 2pm.
Upon its arrival there, a short prayer service was attended by the Royals, Prime Minister Liz Truss and other MPs before the public were allowed in.
It marked the end of what has been a frantic few days for Britain’s new King. He will take a day out of the public eye on Thursday before travelling to Wales with the Queen Consort, in the final of his visits to all four nations of the UK.
The service also marked the end of private mourning among royal family members and the beginning of public mourning.
The Queen’s coffin has been raised high on a catafalque, draped in the Royal Standard, with the Orb and Sceptre placed on top.
The brass Cross of Westminster stands at the head of the coffin, with four tall yellow flickering candles at each corner of the wide scarlet platform.
The Queen’s connection to Westminster Hall is longstanding. She was presented with ceremonial addresses during her Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees there.
The Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster. It was where Guy Fawkes and Charles I were tried, and where kings and queens hosted lavish banquets.
The Queen’s lying in state will continue until 6.30am on Monday September 19, ahead of a funeral service at 11am.
People have queued for hours – even days – and travelled from as far as the US and Canada to have the opportunity to say farewell to the monarch.
London is expected to swell over the weekend, and people are being warned of congestion and restricted access at stations in the central city.
Transport for London’s (TfL) boss said it’s facing the “biggest event and challenge” in its history as more than one million people are expected to travel to the centre.
Andy Byford, the organisation’s commissioner, told PA that planning for the Queen’s lying in state and funeral is more complicated than the 2012 Olympics as it is “impossible” to accurately predict crowd sizes.
Across the Tube network as a whole, TfL recorded 2.99 million journeys on Tuesday, up 8 per cent compared with a week earlier.
Mr Byford said: “The most recent approximation or estimate is that there will be around potentially up to 750,000 people in the queue for lying in state, which is itself a huge number.
“But then if you take the whole 10-day mourning period and the various events that happen during that – obviously some happened elsewhere – but even the London element of that, we are talking well north of a million people.”
People waiting in the queue are being warned to pack light and expect to be on their feet for hours. Guidance has been released by the government, as well as a livestream of the length of the queue.
At its peak on Wednesday night the line had almost stretched three miles from Westminster Hall to Southwark Bridge.
There has been some criticism that the queuing system is “not accessible to disabled people”.
Disability Rights UK chief executive Kamran Mallick said: “We welcome the potential of shorter waiting time slots and a shorter distance to queue for disabled people, but there is still a breathtaking lack of awareness around the needs of disabled people.”
The Government said there is a shorter, accessible queue running from for people unable to stand for long periods or those with specific needs.
Meanwhile, tributes from world leaders continue to flood in. US President Joe Biden spoke with the King on Wednesday to share his condolences.
In statement Mr Biden said: “I recalled [the Queen’s] kindness, dignity, and constancy – and how she deepened the friendship between our nations. I also let the King know that I hope to continue a close relationship with him.”
World leaders will be arriving in London in the coming days to attend the state funeral.