Mourners have shared their memories of meeting “the Queen of the world” with a smile that “lit up the room” as they queued outside St Paul’s ahead of the service following her death.
Thousands of well-wishers formed a line winding from the cathedral round to the Tube station streets away, waiting to take their seats at the memorial on Friday evening.
Many were smartly dressed in black mourning veils and suits, while others wore bright colours and Union Jack prints to celebrate the monarch’s reign.
Some of those in the crowd spoke of a “personal grief”, having felt they knew the Queen without ever having spoken to her because of the warmth with which she conducted her service.
But a few recalled their encounters with the late head of state at engagements and state visits throughout her life.
Opera singer Susan Daniel, who met the Queen on several occasions, described her “Hanoverian blue eyes” and “dazzling smile” that lit up the room.
Ms Daniel, who spoke with the monarch during a state visit to Switzerland and again in Milan, said her ability to show “endless interest” in people and remember conversations was unparalleled.
“She was always hugely well-prepared,” she said.
“I had always been told about these Hanoverian blue eyes, and they were exactly like that, and the fabulously dazzling smile.
“She looked like a ballerina, this wonderful lighting up of the face, and it lit you up, really, it filled the room.
“It was like that even at the end (of her life), it lit up the room.
“It was her interest in you really, and she had such a memory, endlessly interested. Devotion is the word.”
Karen Wilson, a translator from Surrey, remembered the “real sense of dignity” that came across when she saw the Queen at an engagement in the 1990s.
Ms Wilson said the monarch had smiled and waved at her young children as she passed them outside Buckingham Palace on her way from greeting the Emperor of Japan, a moment they will “always remember”.
She added: “I was just moved by the sense of history and occasion. I think I didn’t realise till yesterday how much I loved her. It’s an honour to be part of something so historic – it’s about stability and continuity.”
Jacqueline Cable, 40, described the Queen as a “rock” for the nation who had been her “heroine” since she was a child.
Ms Cable, who works in marketing, said: “I feel a huge sense of loss because to me she was inextricably linked to my grandma. She’s been my heroine since I was a young child.
“I want to pray and thank God that we had such a rock. I did see her in Cambridge in about 2003.”
Asked what her impression had been on seeing the Queen in person, she said: “She was so sweet, so friendly, so devoted to her job.
“An absolute pillar of strength, integrity and humility.
“We were so blessed and I feel so sad for her family, which is a volume of people who span the globe, but most of all her immediate family. There will be people in every corner of the world who are devastated today.”
Pupil barrister Danielle Carrington, who received a scholarship from the Princess Royal, praised the Queen for her “dignity and grace” as she queued with her mother outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
Ahead of attending the service on Friday, Ms Carrington, a 20-year-old winner of the Princess Royal Inner Temple award, said the royal family had always been “very supportive” of the legal profession despite the Queen maintaining her neutrality.
“For all generations really, the Queen embodied those ideals of our country, integrity, dignity and grace, and it’s very important from my perspective anyway to pay respect to that,” she said.
Danielle’s mother, Lindsey Carrington, said the loss was a “like a family grief, a personal grief” rather than that of a monarch, adding: “We knew we could always depend on her in any diplomatic setting.”
Danielle, who met Princess Anne when receiving her scholarship, said: “Princess Anne embodies similar qualities to the Queen – there was a lot of humility.”
Sisters Kate Gavljak, 42, and Sarah Botting, 38, described the Queen as “Britain’s trump card”.
“Other people may have fancier fireworks, but we have the Queen and that’s untouchable,” Ms Gavljak, from Sydney, Australia said.
Despite never having met the Queen, Ms Botting, from London, fondly recalled getting “very wet on her behalf” attending the Diamond Jubilee amid a torrential downpour in London in 2012.
“When she came onto the balcony, you could feel the warmth and happiness and excitement in the crowd,” she said.
Veteran of the Indian Army Rakesh Kapoor and his wife Anjana Kapoor said they were attending the service at St Paul’s to pay respect to the “very warm” and “very welcoming” Queen.
Mr Kapoor, 66, who served for 24 years, said: “We came here especially because we happen to be in London visiting our daughter so we thought it was essential to come and join and pay our tribute to the Queen who was loved by all of us.”
He added: “The regiments I have served in have fought in World War Two alongside the British Army, and I am proud of that.”
Mrs Kapoor said: “She came across as a very warm person, she never projected herself as a monarch but someone always available to the people.
“She would go all out and be very welcoming, shaking hands with people and nice to the children.”
Annette Edozien, 67, said the Queen’s death was like “losing your mum or your grandmother” as she queued near Paternoster Square in central London.<
“Though I didn’t meet her I felt like I knew her because she has this motherly quality and she was there for us,” she said.
“It’s like losing your mum or your grandmother and the fear of the unknown that comes after.”
Susanna Fataki, 40, was emotional as she described the profound reassurance the Queen offered her during the Covid pandemic in her address to the nation.
“She’s the Queen of the world and I know Charles will be a great king, but she was the Queen, the woman who always showed forgiveness and dignity, even with the major scandals she always reacted with dignity and as an example of forgiveness,” Ms Fataki said.
Ms Fataki, from Italy, added tearfully: “It was so, so reassuring when she gave the speech during Covid and I feel like I lost a member of my family.
“We are Catholic and every month we say the mass for Diana, and now they will do it for the Queen.”
The service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday evening will see Dean Designate Andrew Tremlett give thanks for the Queen’s “devotion to all her people”.
Some 2,000 members of the public will be attending the 6pm service, along with the new Prime Minister Liz Truss.