Tears flow as mourners pay last respects to the Queen in Westminster Hall

·3-min read

An atmosphere of quiet respect, awe and emotion filled the ancient Westminster Hall as members of the public began to pay their respects to the Queen.

As thousands of ordinary people of all ages filed past the coffin of the long-reigning monarch, many dabbed their eyes as the enormity of the moment sunk in.

One man buried his face in his hands as he was overcome with emotion.

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The coffin is carried into Westminster Hall for the Queen’s lying in state (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Others appeared pensive, perhaps reflecting on the Queen’s historic 70-year reign and the ways in which she touched their lives.

Some looked awestruck at the magnificence of the scene, with the coffin raised high on a catafalque, draped in the Royal Standard, with the Orb and Sceptre placed on top.

The brass Cross of Westminster stands at the head of the coffin, with four tall yellow flickering candles at each corner of the wide scarlet platform.

Under the medieval timber roof, chandeliers and spotlights illuminated the historic Hall.

Some natural light streamed through the large stained glass window the Queen received as a present from both Houses of Parliament for her Diamond Jubilee.

Her connection to the place ran deeper, as it is here she was presented with ceremonial addresses during her Silver, Golden and Diamond jubilees.

Her lying in state in the 11th century hall at the heart of the parliamentary estate also attests to the entwined nature of royalty and government in the constitution.

The Hall is the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster. It was where Guy Fawkes and Charles I were tried, and where kings and queens hosted lavish banquets.

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Members of the public wait in the queue near Lambeth Bridge to view the Queen lying in state (Danny Lawson/PA)

After the doors opened to members of the public at 5pm, people left the warm sunshine outside to step into the parliamentary estate, stream down the wide staircase and into the atmospheric Hall.

Footsteps were muffled by plush carpet running on both sides of the catafalque, with the silence pierced at times by quiet sniffles.

Some couples and families held hands, while others placed their arms around a teary loved one.

One woman, who was being comforted by a companion, said: “It’s just so sad.”

Several people paused and turned back where the two carpeted lanes rejoined. Some bowed, others curtsied and some simply took a moment to take in the touching scene.

One woman with pink hair waved before bowing, while another crossed her heart.

The black garb of most mourners added to the sombre mood.

One man bucked the trend by wearing a union flag jacket as he paid his respects to the Queen.

It was a rare phone-free zone, as electronic devices are forbidden inside.

Some mourners entering Westminster Hall were treated to the spectacle of the regular Changing of the Guard.

At 5.40pm, the flow of people was stopped as 10 guards slowly marched down the narrow steps in the far corner of the cavernous chamber.

Their heavily-booted footsteps rang out as they approached the coffin between the two carpeted lanes for the public.

The formation split up in the middle before they climbed the steps of the scarlet catafalque, the gold on their uniforms glistening under the lights from the chandeliers.

Once the previous guards departed the same way, well-wishers were again allowed to pass through.

People queued for hours or even days and some travelled from afar to have the opportunity to say farewell to the monarch.

The stream of people is not expected to wane during the four days the Queen remains here ahead of the state funeral on Monday.

Her coffin was brought from Buckingham Palace amid sombre pageantry on a horse-drawn ceremonial gun carriage earlier on Wednesday.

As she was placed in position in the Hall by the Grenadier Guards, she was effectively handed over to the the nation for her lying in state.