Queen queue: Meet the mourners in London waiting for hours to pay respects to Elizabeth II

·4-min read
Queen queue: Meet the mourners in London waiting for hours to pay respects to Elizabeth II

A family spent nine hours driving and queuing to see the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, saying there was a sense of camaraderie and jovial atmosphere in the crowds.

Debbie Tibbert, 58, wanted to commemorate the late monarch, along with her husband, son and a German exchange student who is currently staying with their family.

They set off from Wiltshire, southwest England, at 4:00 am on Thursday, driving three and a half hours to reach cloudy London.

The four were among the tens of thousands of mourners wanting to pay their respects, all facing long waits to see the Queen lying in state at Westminister Hall in the British capital.

The line on Friday stretched eight kilometres from Westminster to Southwark Park in south London. After a surge in numbers, people were stopped from joining the queue for six hours.

After queuing for five and a half hours, which she said "was not too bad at all," Tibbert finally got the chance to "pay her respects", solemnly filing past Elizabeth II in Westminster Hall -- the oldest part of the House of Commons.

"She [the Queen] was one special lady that we want to say thank you to," said Tibbert, adding that she had "always loved" the Royal Family and came from a line of Royalists.

In the long, winding queue Tibbert said everyone was "very chatty" and "together," however as they climbed the steps into the Hall a "dignified" silence descended.

"It was really, really beautiful," she said. "None of us knew her personally, but it feels like a personal loss. She [the Queen] has always been there in our lives, serving us, dedicating her life to us, and it is really hard to not see her around anymore."

"My son said to me it feels like the world has lost a mother."

Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
People queue to pay their respect to the late Queen Elizabeth II during the Lying-in State, outside Westminster Hall in London, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. - Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Speaking to Euronews in the car on her way back from London, Tibbert said the whole family were very tired now and looking forward to "putting their feet up". 

The volume of mourners was so large come Thursday morning that the UK government launched a live online queue tracker on Youtube, which displays waiting times and the location of the queue.

'A moment of history'

Others went to view the spectacle of the queue, something not seen in London's recent history.

"It was quite nice," said Kit Heren, a senior reporter at Southwark News, who mingled with the crowds in Bermondsey earlier today. "Everyone seemed really friendly and happy to be there."

"It wasn't like a mournful atmosphere as you might think, it was kind of jolly," he added.

While the demographic was more skewed towards older people, Heren told Euronews many younger people had also turned out to pay their respects to the monarch, helping "bring a sense of community".

The Queen's funeral has become a "national event," continued Heren. "There is a sense among people that they are participating in something that is once in a three or four generation event."

"People want to look back and say I was there," he added.

The event appeared to be well-managed throughout the day, with several hundred stewards on hand to manage the crowds and ensure no one pushed in.

Some stewards were reportedly facing very long working hours, starting at 6:30 and ending at 19:00 that same evening, though some of those on site were in high spirits.

Tibbert said she was "hopeful" for the new monarch, King Charles III.

"I think he's going to be really good," she said. "Well, hopefully, he's been waiting in the wings for a long time."

Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
People leave Westminster Palace after paying their respects, during the Lying-in State, at Westminster Hall in London, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. - Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Born in 1948, King Charles, the Queen's eldest son, was the UK's longest-ever king-in-waiting, looking at the throne for decades before he could finally ascend onto it.

Buckingham Palace released details of plans for the Queen's funeral on Monday.

It will be the first state funeral held in the UK since the death of former Prime Minister and wartime leader Winston Churchill in 1965.

Credit: AP
Two lines of mourners file past the casket and catafalque in Westminster Hall, Jan. 27, 1965, paying homage to Sir Winston Churchill. - Credit: AP

Royalty and heads of state from around the world are expected to be among the 2,000 people attending the Westminster Abbey funeral service on Monday.

A smaller burial service is planned for later that day at Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September at Balmoral aged 96. She was the longest-serving monarch in UK history, reigning for 70 years.