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Queen Elizabeth II Lying-in-State: Mourners wait 14 hrs in 16-km queues to file past coffin

A million visitors are queuing up to attend the longest-reigning Queen Elizabeth II Lying-in-State, making history; while a galaxy of world leaders land in London for the State funeral at Westminster Abbey at 11 am (3:30 pm IST) on Monday. It will be a huge gathering of world leaders never seen before. King Charles III hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for them on Sunday evening. There were 500 dignitaries.

The queue from Southwark Park touches Tower bridge, London bridge, Southwark bridge, Millennium bridge, Blackfriars bridge, Waterloo bridge and Westminster bridge before crossing the Lambeth bridge to enter a zig-zag near the entrance.

The BBC gave a calculation of the length of the queue. The distance from Westminster to Southwark Park, the starting point of the queue, is 11 km. Then there is the zig-zag section of nearly 5 km to rough in. So the queue is meandering slowly up towards Westminster for a total of 16 km! (which in theory becomes a constant). Although, 16 km is quite a lot for standing and moving without any chance to cool your legs for a moment. "Very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be continuously moving” - the Government itself cautioned a swelling stream of mourners pouring into London from across the kingdom day and night. The time taken can easily be 14 hours! Yet the determination keeps everyone fit as a fiddle.

The calculation doesn't take into account a queue to join the queue that has come up and the last-minute doubling of the official queue into a double lane.

The masses in the queues looked extremely solemn and serious too and displayed an amazing natural discipline that illustrated a national character evolved partly from a thousand years of democratic tradition.

LONDON, Sept 18: Biggest-ever security arrangements were put in place in London as a stream of Heads of State and Government, like US President Joe Biden, and royals and other dignitaries from across the world began landing in the city since Saturday to participate in Queen Elizabeth II's funeral on Monday at 11 am (3:30 pm IST). Around 2,000 guests are expected who will be seated in Westminster Abbey, the venue for the State funeral, by 8 am. King Charles III and Prime Minister Liz Truss were scheduled to meet the top leaders separately on Saturday-Sunday. On Sunday evening Charles hosted a reception for them at Buckingham Palace. There were 500 dignitaries.

Meanwhile, the long queues of commoners that began swelling by the hour since Wednesday evening has broken the Guinness World Records. Nearly a million visitors will have filed past the coffin by the end of time or that is the capacity for which only arrangements had been made!

Britons are displaying exemplary fortitude in enduring the grueling journey standing 12 to 14 hours day or night in unending queues wanting to pay respects to the departed Queen lying-in-state.

Shuffling along the streets of London, it appeared uncertain on Sunday if most visitors desiring to come will make it, missing out an experience of a lifetime, attending the Monarch lying-in-state.

The mourners in line are roughing it for the toughest time braving the cold nights standing in queues for over 12 hours on an average, old and young alike, from far and near, having come for a last glimpse of their beloved Queen 'waiting' in the people's house, the centuries old Westminster Hall, before Her Majesty moves into her final resting place at Wintsor Castle alongside her Prince Consort.

Southwark Park is the entry point for the queue. Queues systematically wind through a zig-zag section and along the Thames bank passing the Lambeth Bridge (see image).

Unusual for Westerners, the mourners united in purpose were seen at places chit-chatting as they willingly embraced the ordeal. Those were positive expressions. No complaints.

People talking to one another, asking where did they hail from, connecting with people walking past slowly, on their own, disciplined, absolute silence, orderly movement, without need for cops to utter a word! Even inside the Hall they behaved themselves, they could take their own time, if they wanted. There was pindrop silence as everyone bowed one's head in reverence. It was history in the making.

30 things you didn’t know about Queen Elizabeth!

The mourners came prepared, dressed to face any weather. On Saturday too like the previous day, queues lengthened to full capacity and it was overwhelming at Southwark Park, the entry point. It was estimated a visitor joining the queue at Southwark Park took 12 hours on an average to reach the entrance. On Sunday the stream of visitors to London only mounted. As the entrance will close at 6:30 am Monday, joining the queue after 6 pm Sunday will invite only disappointment.

A Government website said, "this is a journey with very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be continuously moving”.

It was cloudy on Sunday morning at 8 and the temperature was 11 deg C. The night before was colder. How did the multitudes manage. According to BBC, blankets were distributed.

King Charles and Prince William had an unscheduled meeting with mourners in the queue at points like Lambeth bridge, south London, on Saturday. King Charles shook their hands. Several people cried after meeting Prince William, BBC reported.

Some Do's & Don'ts

Authorities had on Saturday warned the public not to undertake travel to join the queue as the wait time stretched beyond 14 hours standing. Visitors were told better not to bring children.

According to Daily Telegraph, the visitors are given a coloured wrist band bearing a number that helps them to leave the line to go to portaloos or for refreshments if they want and get back to their slot.

There are 500 portable toilets and eight first aid stations run by St John Ambulance along the route.

Around a 1,000 cops have been drawn to London from across the Kingdom to help the Scotland Yard, the city police, to assist the public.

The British Film Institute (BFI) has set up an outdoor screen showing footage from the archives of Queen's life for the those in the queues.

The Government had already warned the people about the physical endurance.

More than 700 people had fallen sick in the queue and had to be treated by paramedics, till Saturday.

Before reaching the security check at the Victoria Tower Gardens at the Palace of Westminster, any food or liquid thay may have must be consumed or disposed of. Flasks and water bottles must be emptied. A small bag of size up to 40 cm x 30 cm x 20 cm, with one simple opening or zip is allowed in. However, there is a bag drop facility before check point. Checking is very strict.

No photography is allowed. Flowers, candles etc can be dropped at an identified tribute area beforehand. That is near Green Park.

No weapons, blankets etc are allowed. One should be ready to spend the night in the queue.

David Beckham in queue

Renowned soccer star David Beckham preferred to take his turn waiting in line with the rest of the country's mourners. Beckham was seen in line on Friday morning. He waited for more than 12 hours to reach the Queen.

Grateful King Charles and Prince William met some mourners in the queue and shook hands, on Saturday.

Entry to the queues was blocked by authorities on Friday as they were snaking beyond an unmanageable 8 km at 10 in the morning (IST 2:30 pm Friday), taking 14 hours to reach the entrance. New visitors were not allowed for at least six hours. They were told to be prepared to spend the night standing in queue.

"Entry (to the queue) will be paused for at least 6 hours. Please do not attempt to join the queue until it re-opens," the Government's culture department said on Twitter.


The longest-reigning Queen Elizabeth II who died on September 8 was the oldest monarch at 96. She was on the throne for over 70 years.

The coffin is placed on a catafalque and draped in the Royal Standard, with the Orb and Sceptre placed on top.

The Queen’s four children - King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, will be present at the funeral.

The opening of lying in state was attended by the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Labour Party Opposition leader Keir Starmer.

The new Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, Prince William, and his brother Duke of Sussex Prince Harry and other royals stood vigil at the Queen's coffin on Saturday evening. Charles and the Queen Consort did so on Friday.

Prince Harry and Prince Andrew were given permission to wear military uniform for the vigil. He had relinquished royal functions a few years back over the scandal relating to Jeffrey Epstein.

The tradition of Lying-in-State for monarchs began in 1910 with Edward VII, who lay-in-state in Westminster Hall. Three lakh visitors had lined up day and night in bitter cold to file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II's father George VI. Elizabeth the Queen Mother lay in state, in 2002. Prince Philip, Elizabeth II's consort, opted out; he died in 2021. Some Prime Ministers like Winston Churchill also lay-in-state in Westminster Hall.

A national minute's silence is held across the UK on Sunday at 20:00. A prayer service will be held at the Kelpies, near Falkirk.

Buckingham Palace said five prime ministers held audiences with the King on Saturday afternoon. They were Jacinda Ardern, PM of New Zealand, Australian leader Anthony Albanese, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, The Bahamas' PM Philip Davis, and the PM of Jamaica Andrew Holiness.

The funeral

Queen Elizabeth II's funeral is the first state funeral in the UK since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.

The lying-in-state in Westminster Hall ends 6:30 am Monday and the Hall will be closed. At 10:44 am the coffin will be placed on the gun carriage and moved to nearby Westminster Abbey at 10.52 am. Pall bearers will lift the coffin from the carriage and carry to Abbey. Doors will open at 8 am to allow guests like Biden take their seats.

Heads of state and overseas Government representatives, including foreign royal families, Governors-General and realm Prime Ministers will gather initially at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and travel under “collective arrangements” to Westminster Abbey, Independent said. Royals other than those in procession will also take their seats early.

All others like MPs and those from the realms and the Commonwealth will form the congregation, about 2,000 people, who will also be seated at 8 am.

A life of duty

At 11 am the funeral service will begin. It will be attended by world leaders and the royal family members present. Funeral will be conducted by Dean of Westminster. Prime minister Liz Truss and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth are both expected to give readings at the service.

At 11:55 Last Post is played and then a national two-minute silence will follow. The service ends with a piper playing at 12 noon.

Then, starting at midday, the bearer party will lift the coffin from the catafalque and place on the State Gun Carriage of the Royal Navy which will stop at Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, at around 1 pm. There the coffin will be transferred on to the State hearse and driven to Windsor Castle. It will arrive at Windsor Castle at 3.06 pm. Then starts a walking procession up Windsor Castle's Long Walk, about 5 km. The King and other royals join the cortege in the Quadrangle in a procession for the committal service at St George's Chapel.

The three processions

(So there are three processions for the funeral. The first is a short one from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey for the official State funeral service; then from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch in State Gun Carriage of the Royal Navy; here the coffin is transferred to the State Hearse for the onward journey to Windsor Castle. The third procession is within the Castle premises, to St George's Chapel.)

After a ceremony at 4 pm in St George’s Chapel, the coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault.

Queen's coffin will be reunited with Prince Philip’s

At 7:30 pm Queen Elizabeth II's coffin will be reunited with the her husband of 70 years, Duke of Edinburgh Prince Consort Philip’s coffin and they both will be interred in the King George VI Memorial Chapel (of the Queen's father) in a private service. Prince Philip is currently resting in the Royal vault.

(A chapel is a small place of worship which can be anywhere - like even residences - and without clergymen or priests while a church is a dedicated building with clergymen or priests managing the prayers. A large church can also accommodate one or more chapels. A cathedral is bigger than a church and is run by a bishop. The very ancient Windsor Castle belongs to the monarchy and has the medieval St George's Chapel which may be used for services like weddings and burials. The King George VI Memorial Chapel was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II as her father's burial place. It is a part of St George's Chapel. The Castle was the Queen's private residence.)

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