Public wait to see Queen Elizabeth lie extends to 4pm
Thousands of mourners lined along the River Thames in London on Saturday to pay their last respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II, as the British government warned that those wishing to queue to reach the Palace of Westminster face a wait of more than 16 hours.
Many braved a cold night queuing while others entered Southwark Park to join the queue despite the UK Ministry of Culture asking members of the public to stay home as the wait time was increased to 24 hours. This number was later revised downwards.
Overnight, volunteers handed out blankets and cups of tea to people queuing as the temperature dropped to 6C.
Honoring the patience of the crowd, King Charles III and Prince William then paid an unannounced visit to greet those queuing.
Tens of thousands of people have already marched past the coffin of Westminster Hall in a steady and solemn stream, queuing for hours in the dark and cold to pay their respects to Britain’s longest serving monarch – a testament to the condition in which she was held.
The flood of people wishing to say goodbye to the Queen has steadily grown since the public was first admitted to the room on Wednesday. Authorities on Friday temporarily stopped letting more visitors join the end of the line, which winds around Southwark Park, about five miles from Parliament.
The Queen’s death on September 8 at her summer estate in the Scottish Highlands sparked a wave of emotion across the country and 10 days of highly choreographed events.
After resting in the Scottish capital for 24 hours, the coffin was transported to south London, where tens of thousands of people crowded onto a normally busy road in the pouring rain to watch the flag-draped coffin lead at Buckingham Palace.
On Friday evening, King Charles joined his three siblings – Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward – in a silent vigil at the coffin while their eight children, including William and Harry, will form their own ceremonial guard on Saturday evening. This ceremony is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET.
William, heir to the throne, and his brother Harry, who separated in recent years after Harry moved to the United States, will both stand guard at the coffin in military uniform.
2 brothers will be joined by their cousins
Harry has served two tours of duty with the British Army in Afghanistan, but so far has appeared in morning processions in costume after losing his honorary military titles when he stepped down from public royal duties .
The wake will be held at the oak coffin, which stands on a purple-clad catafalque, draped with the Royal Standard and with the jeweled Imperial State Crown placed on top.
The two brothers will be joined by their cousins Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, the children of Princess Anne; Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, children of Prince Andrew; and Louise and James, the children of Prince Edward.
Like many members of the pubilc, Sarah Boniface, a 60-year-old estate agent, was in tears and emotional as she left Westminster Hall on Friday evening after being up for 14 hours after watching the new King hold the vigil as she walked past the coffin.
“It’s worth every minute. Every minute,” she said, visibly fighting back tears. “I am so lucky to have paid homage to the Queen and to have seen our new King.”
For pensioner Hasmukh Vara, 62, his decision to stand for 13 hours to observe the lie in state reflected his desire to say thank you to the late monarch – and to Britain – after moving from Kenya to the country in the 1970s.
Emerging from the vast, brightly lit room into the cool Friday night darkness by the Thames, he described himself as feeling “very, very high”.
“We came as refugees to this country,” he told Reuters. “For all my life, I am indebted to her because she gave us a home. It’s something we can never, ever forget. It’s very important to me and my family.”
Nearly 100 presidents will attend the funeral
The Queen’s children described being devastated by the reaction to their mother’s death.
Monday’s state funeral, attended by nearly 100 presidents and heads of government, including those from Canada, the United States, France, Australia, Japan and Jamaica, will likely be one of the largest ceremonies ever held in Britain.
US President Joe Biden is expected to pay tribute to the Queen on Sunday, the White House announced on Saturday.
On Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked past the coffin – one of the first leaders to arrive. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney described the rally in central London as “this huge diverse gathering of people from all over the world”.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped to view the coffin ahead of a meeting with the King in London. Trudeau was accompanied by his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau.
The couple signed a condolence book at Lancaster House and the Prime Minister delivered a message reflecting the Queen’s legacy in Canada.
“I first met Her Majesty when I was seven years old and her presence throughout my life has been constant, inspiring and gracious,” he said.
“As Prime Minister, I have benefited from his advice, his thoughtfulness, his curiosity, his sense of humor and the commitment that has demonstrated a deep, deep and abiding interest and love for the Canadians.”
On Saturday, King Charles will meet the prime ministers of the 14 other countries where he is head of state. He will also meet with emergency service workers involved in funeral arrangements.
Authorities said the queue was briefly interrupted on Friday evening when someone tried to approach the coffin on its platform.
Police said a man had been arrested and detained for breaching the Public Order Act.