Thousands prepare to pay respects in queue with capacity to reach 10 miles

·4-min read
Members of the public join the queue on the South Bank, as they wait to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the public join the queue on the South Bank, as they wait to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Thousands of people have taken their spots in the queue for the Queen’s lying in state as the public prepares to pay its last respects.

The line has the capacity to stretch back 10 miles, with no guarantee that everyone who joins it will get to file past the late monarch’s coffin in Westminster Hall.

Nevertheless, people are turning out in droves for the opportunity to say a personal farewell ahead of the Queen’s funeral on Monday.

Doors opened at 5pm on Wednesday, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is running a live queue tracker to pinpoint the end of the line which can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=9NpZuGxSgZY

At 5.20pm, the tracker showed the queue was around 2.9 miles long, stretching as far as London Bridge.

To help avoid disappointment, it is understood that entry to the back of the queue may be closed early, although it is too early to estimate when that moment might come.

Numbers will be monitored towards the end of the lying in state period, which must be completed by 6.30am on September 19, to ensure as near as possible that those already waiting are able complete their visit.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

Entry to the line will also be paused for a time if the queuing infrastructure – stretching 6.9 miles from Victoria Tower Gardens to Southwark Park, with a further three miles within the park itself – reaches capacity.

There will be more than 1,000 volunteers, stewards, marshals and police officers on hand at any one time as people brave the wait on the banks of the Thames.

This includes 779 professional stewards per shift, assisted by 100 civil service volunteer marshals, 40 adult scouts, and 30 members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry charity, as well as Metropolitan Police officers.

There will be a separate accessible route running from the Tate Britain for people less able to wait for a long period of time, with timed entry slots issued for a line along Millbank to the Palace of Westminster.

No proof of disability will be required to use this route, with marshals on hand to make sure people are in the correct line and two British Sign Language interpreters to help.

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard, is carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery during the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall (Vadim Ghirda/PA) (PA Wire)
The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard, is carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery during the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall (Vadim Ghirda/PA) (PA Wire)

Joyce Dawson, 54, from Middlesbrough, has never visited London before, but said she was “inspired” to travel down for the Queen’s lying in state after seeing the first people in the queue being interviewed on the TV news on Tuesday evening.

She told the PA news agency: “I texted my daughter and said: ‘We have to go to London tonight’, so we’re here.

“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing.”

She and her daughter Shelby, 26, who has also never been to the capital before, got on the midnight coach from Middlesbrough and joined the queue at about 8am.

Joyce added: “It’s just nice to be a part of this. It’s exciting, I’m dead excited, I’m like a little kid.”

Duncan Rasor, a former member of the Balmoral Guard who met the Queen while serving in Scotland, wore his military medals and Glengarry headdress as he too queued for Westminster Hall.

Crowds gather along the Mall ahead of the ceremonial procession (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Crowds gather along the Mall ahead of the ceremonial procession (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

The 48-year-old, who served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, told PA that, from a personal perspective, he wanted to come and pay his respects “for everything that she’s done”.

He described spending time with the royal family as an “extraordinary privilege” and added: “Even though they are on holiday up in Balmoral, they are still working, and it just never stops.

“I think that is something which is starting to become more apparent to people is quite how hard Her Majesty has worked for her entire life.”

Meanwhile, Kush Sonigra, who lives in the London area, was spending his 24th birthday in line.

He told PA: “Well, fortunately, from work I get the day off for my birthday, so I thought I’d get involved and see what the hype is about, get involved with the event.”

Mr Sonigra added: “There’s a family dinner table so I’m hoping, depending on how late I finish here, I might be able to make it for that. Otherwise, we will postpone that to the weekend.”

He said his mother “is a little bit upset that I’m missing the family dinner, but I think she’ll understand”.

It is understood there will be an element of self-policing when it comes to people keeping their places in line.

Those waiting in the queue are being given a coloured and numbered wristband, specific to each person, allowing them to leave for a brief time.

It is thought people will know those around them and be supportive when others need to step out.