‘I feel very privileged’ says final mourner as lying in state ends

·5-min read

A member of the Royal Air Force was the final person in the queue to see the Queen lying in state in Parliament’s Westminster Hall.

Chrissy Heerey was the last member of the public into Westminster Hall – her second time around in the queue, after already filing past the coffin earlier during the night.

The public viewing ended shortly before 6.30am as Ms Heerey and Sima Mansouri became the last of the hundreds of thousands of people who have waited for hours to pay their respects.

Ms Heerey said: “I was the last person to pay my respects to the Queen and it felt like a real privilege to do that.”

She had queued and got in to see the Queen during the night but then rejoined the line and filed through again.

“I’d already been round once, I went in at 1.15 this morning,” Ms Heerey, from Melton Mowbray, said.

“It’s one of the highlights of my life and I feel very privileged to be here.”

The penultimate person to see the Queen lying in state was Ms Mansouri, 55, originally from Iran, who lives in South Croydon, London.

Her love for the Queen dates back to the 1970s, when her cousin was a flower girl for a royal visit in Tehran.

Ms Mansouri said: “It was a boiling hot day and my poor cousin has got very fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes.

“The Queen came out of her plane and was more concerned with my cousin burning in the sun than being a royal.”

“She said: ‘Can someone please get this little girl out of the sun?’ Then she kissed her and grabbed the flowers.

“I thought it was amazing.”

Since 5pm on Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of members of the public have filed past the coffin until, early on Monday morning, the final people who had queued through the night left the cavernous medieval hall.

The process has seen a river of people snaking along the Thames around the clock, with members of the public mixing with celebrities and foreign dignitaries beneath Westminster Hall’s hammer-beam roof.

Some bowed, some curtsied, others made the sign of the cross as they paused beside the coffin which was draped in the Royal Standard with the jewels in the Imperial State Crown, sceptre and orb, placed on top.

Members of parliamentary staff and Black Rod Sarah Clarke were the last people to pay their respects after the those who had queued had been through Westminster Hall.

For the Queen, it was the final duty in Parliament, an institution which she visited frequently during her 70-year reign.

She delivered her first Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament on November 4 1952.

During her reign she only missed three state openings – in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant with Andrew, the future Duke of York, and Edward, who would become Earl of Wessex, and then in May this year as her health faltered.

On that occasion the then-Prince of Wales opened Parliament, a role which will be his by right from now on as King.

By the end, the flow of mourners passing into Westminster Hall had slowed to a trickle as those at the back of the queue finally reached their destination.

Some were smartly dressed in sombre black coats, while others wore brightly coloured outdoor gear which served as protection against the chilly autumnal night.

They passed through the hall in silence, with some pausing for one final look at the only monarch many of them have ever known before exiting into the dawn.

The silence was interrupted only by the changing of the guard every 20 minutes, the sound of military boots on the stone floor echoing off the walls.

There was some anger among people who had failed to make it into Westminster Hall.

They complained that they were given “false hope” they would be able to attend the Queen’s lying-in-state after queuing through the night without the necessary wristbands.

Access to the official queue had ended on Sunday night, in order to meet the 6.30am closure of the lying in state period.

But Pauline Pearce, who queued in central London for seven hours, said “constant misinformation” was given to those in the queue.

Ms Pearce, who was dubbed the “Hackney heroine” after she was filmed confronting rioters in 2011, said: “All of us have felt angry today.

“We were sent from one point to another and living off the false hope that they might let us in. At one point they said they were going to open the gates, then suddenly they didn’t. There was no empathy at all from the organisers.”

Fiona Harper, 60, said organisation of the last night of queuing was characterised by ineptitude, with confusion about where wristbands were to be handed out.

Ms Harper said: “The problem was that we were all led to believe that you picked up your wristband at the end of the queue. So, we were queueing for an hour and a half before they told us there were no more wristbands.”