Mourners camp overnight for chance to pay final respects at Queen’s funeral as crowds gather in Mall

·4-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Mourners have camped overnight to secure front row seats on The Mall as the Queen’s coffin moves to her final resting place in Windsor.

Thousands of people are expected to line the grand avenue outside Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of the monarch’s procession and give their final farewells following her funeral in Westminster Abbey.

Ardent Royalists, many camping out since Saturday, have waited patiently to bag a prime viewing spot of the carriage as it is drawn by 142 Royal Naval personnel along The Mall followed by the grieving King and other members of the royal family.

Members of the public wait along The Mall before the Queen was taken to Westminster Hall in London (AP)
Members of the public wait along The Mall before the Queen was taken to Westminster Hall in London (AP)

Wendy Bingley, her daughter and 79-year-old mother, have set out blue camping seats where they spent 24 hours in anticipation of the ceremony.

“We absolutely adore the queen,” said Bingley, 58, who set off before dawn to bag a prime viewing spot, metres from where the coffin will pass.

“The rest of the family think we’re mad, but hey ho.”

“We’ve got sandwiches, I’ve got a big box of tomatoes, I got sausage rolls - I basically went into Marks and Spencer’s and bought everything,” she added.

“It’s as much as coming to see the queen as it is experiencing being with the people ... everyone’s just lovely.”

People camp out on The Mall ahead of the State funeral (AP)
People camp out on The Mall ahead of the State funeral (AP)

“I’m only 5 foot 3 (1.6 metres), I didn’t want to be 10-deep in the crowd. I wanted to be able to see, so here we are, committed to it,” added 61-year old Fiona Ross who lives in Italy and spent the night in a tent with her sister.”

Nurse Sue Grave, 53, of Chester, Cheshire, expects Monday’s funeral to be “overwhelming and so emotional”.

Nurse Gwenda Griffiths (left), 66, from Swansea, and nurse Sue Grave, 53, from Chester, who are camping on the Mall (PA)
Nurse Gwenda Griffiths (left), 66, from Swansea, and nurse Sue Grave, 53, from Chester, who are camping on the Mall (PA)

Ms Grave said: “I am ex-forces. She was our commander-in-chief. I have just always been a royalist. People from every culture and country have been walking by here and she has done so much for not just our country, but the Commonwealth and the world.

She said: “I need to see her so that I can feel she can go off and rest in peace now. I guess it is closure. Sleeping here was very cold but the amount of services and helpers have been amazing.”

Lara Hodson (left), 50, a student social worker from Chester, and mother-of-two, with housewife Andrea Shenny, 39, from Golders Green, London, who are camping on the Mall (PA)
Lara Hodson (left), 50, a student social worker from Chester, and mother-of-two, with housewife Andrea Shenny, 39, from Golders Green, London, who are camping on the Mall (PA)

Lara Hodson, 50, a student social worker from Chester, said sleeping overnight on the Mall was cold but “the Queen has brought us all together again”, as passers-by stopped to chat, taking them food and hot drinks.

The mother-of-two said: “At the moment it feels like a celebration of her life. Everybody is coming together and chatting. It is lovely.”

Margaret Ford, 76,  a retired decorator and designer of Llandaff North, Cardiff, camping out in the Mall (PA)
Margaret Ford, 76, a retired decorator and designer of Llandaff North, Cardiff, camping out in the Mall (PA)

Margaret Ford, 76, a retired decorator and designer from Llandaff North, Cardiff, Wales, said: “I find it a privilege and an honour to do this. It is no time at all really and it is all to do with caring about people.”

She said: “The Queen was God fearing. She was caring and loving. I would say she was gentle as well.

“It is worth it. It is lovely, the atmosphere, the respect and to be able to thank royalty for what they have done and for what they will do, I believe.”

Tracy Dobson from Hertfordshire, added: “I felt like I had to come and pay my final respects to our majestic queen, she has done so much for us and just a little thank you really from the people,” she said.

On the evening before the funeral, King Charles III issued a message of thanks to people in the U.K. and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, have been “moved beyond measure” by the large numbers of people who have turned out to pay their respects to the queen.

“As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and myself in this time of grief,” he said.

The doors of Westminster Hall were finally closed to mourners at 6am after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her coffin since Wednesday.

The closing of the hall marked the end of four full days of the coffin lying in state and the start of the UK’s first state funeral since the one held in 1965 for Winston Churchill, the first of 15 prime ministers during Elizabeth’s reign.

Once the Queen arrives in Windsor Castle, the Dean of Windsor will conduct a burial service attended by the King and members of the royal family at 7.30pm.

The Queen will be buried with the Duke of Edinburgh at King George VI Memorial Chapel.