Spirits high among those waiting to see the Queen lying in state

·3-min read

Despite the sombre occasion, there was something of a carnival air among those waiting to see the Queen lying in state in London.

Early birds who staked out a prime spot on Tuesday afternoon have now spent almost 24 hours on the banks of the Thames.

By midday, most were well acquainted with their neighbours in the queue, with one person joking they would need to add their new friends to their Christmas card list.

Others posed up for selfies with people they had met in the queue.

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Members of the public join the queue on the South Bank (Danny Lawson/PA)

After a dreary start, the sun came out in the afternoon, providing an invaluable boost to morale.

While there was a universal feeling of wanting to pay one’s last respects to the Queen for 70 years of service, many people also admitted they wanted to experience “a little bit of history”.

People clapped and cheered as regiments from the Royal Air Force and the Navy drafted in to help with crowd control filed past.

Patrols of police officers from various regional police forces also got a round of applause.

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Members of the public join the queue on the South Bank (Stefan Rousseau/PA

The Harkness family proved a big hit with reporters walking up and down the queue, primarily because Chloe Harkness, 11, was one of the youngest in the line.

Guidance from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport advised against bringing children along because of the expected wait, but Chloe had an inset day from school and was up for the challenge.

Neither Chloe or her father Lee, 51, have had any sleep since setting off from Lancashire on Tuesday night, but they, along with sister and aunt Louisa Harkness-Hudson, 53, had cheerfully participated in nine interviews by 3pm.

Chloe said she was “excited but also tired” and said she would look for her name in press clippings once the day was done.

Asked how she would feel stepping into Westminster Hall, she said: “I think I am going to be more grateful than sad.

“I’m proud of what the Queen’s done – it is going to be one of those goose bump moments.”

Asked why the mood was so cheerful, Mr Harkness, a clinical psychologist, said: “I think it is that we are all sharing something as a group of people.”

He added: “There is a sense of loss but it is borne out of shared respect for her.”

“There will be people in the queue who are upset and will shed a tear but there is a sense on the South Bank of sharing something as a country.”

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Signage on the South Bank, London (David Hughes/PA)

Nikki Hawkins, 58, and her daughter Alice, 24, had travelled down from Solihull in the West Midlands.

Mrs Hawkins said: “I know it’s not meant to be pleasant but it’s been pleasant talking to people, it’s just a nice atmosphere.

“I’m so glad we did it.”

Her daughter, who hopes to write a book on the royal family one day, added: “We’re all here for one reason, and it’s nice being in a group.”

Lisa Witherspoon, 44, from Harpenden in Hertfordshire, said: “I’ve had a lovely day – a really unexpected lovely day.

“I’ve met lots of really lovely people and it’s been such a positive atmosphere, it’s just been wonderful.”

She added: “Looking at everyone here today it makes you proud to be British.”

Ms Witherspoon said it had been strange being interviewed so many times, but said she realised there was global interest in the story.

“It’s incredible to see how much goes into all the security and organising of something like this.”