Tens of thousands of British mourners pay their last respects to their beloved Queen Elizabeth II. The sovereign’s coffin has been placed on the catafalque at Westminster Hall since last night.
With excitement and infinite patience, people stand in long queues for the sake of the sovereign, cherished by everyone for her total dedication to the Crown throughout her record reign of 70 years.
There were no public events scheduled for Thursday, and King Charles III finally had a day of rest and quiet after successive days of visits and ceremonies across the kingdom.
The Prince of Wales and his wife, Kate, went to see the flowers laid by people at the Sandringham estate. For their part, the Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward, and his wife spoke to people who leave messages and flowers in Manchester.
The coffin of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch will lie on the stately purple-draped bier at Westminster Hall until the state funeral on Monday, September 19.
The hall will remain open 23 hours a day and it is expected that, in the coming days, hundreds of thousands of people will pass by the Queen’s head to personally pay their last respects.
From Wednesday evening, people began to sit in two rows, on one side and on the other of the catafalque.
What do people do when they get to the queen’s coffin
Associated Press (AP) reporter Jill Lawless: “They have only a few minutes to pass the queen’s head, cross the hall, and then exit through the massive oak doors at the other end. Most linger a few moments longer, even before exiting they take one last look back. And, as a sign of respect, many bow their heads, next to the catafalque, or wipe a tear.”
The coffin is draped with the royal banner. And on top is the Crown of the United Kingdom, encrusted with nearly 3,000 diamonds, and a bouquet made of flowers and plants, gathered from places dear to the Queen’s soul – including a pine tree from the Balmoral estate in Scotland, where Elizabeth II died on September 8, at the age of 96.
The coffin guard is changed every 20 minutes.
The queue of visitors also reached 16 kilometers
Since yesterday evening and overnight, people sat in the queue which was growing more and more. At one point, the length of the line reached 16 kilometers. In true British tradition, people came prepared with blankets, sleeping bags, chairs and playing cards.
Later, a volunteer with a banner behind him would indicate where the last arrivals should sit. Another counted the coffees and juices dispensed.
Another mother sat in line with her little girl proudly wearing a princess tiara.
Mother: “I think she’s the queen’s wackier princess. Love the outfits the queen wore and the colorful hats. She begged me to bring her to the queen as well.”
There are also many immigrants or tourists in line.
Immigrant: “I am originally from Malaysia and we were brought up… Excuse me.. She was a steadfast presence for us and guided our moral standards. Regina was one of the reasons why I settled in this country. I didn’t even know how much it meant to me.”
After midnight, there were also rehearsals for the state funeral in London. Military officers from the ceremonial guard unit and bagpipe bearers marched from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.
In fact, the British capital is intensively preparing for the funeral of the century, which will be attended by hundreds of leaders and crowned heads, a huge security challenge. Foreign guests were asked to travel by commercial flights and not by private jets or helicopters. And to take the bus from Heathrow Airport to Westminster Abbey on September 19.
What Christopher Ghika said about the Queen’s ceremony
“It is my last mission for the queen, but my first mission for the king,” Major General Christopher Ghika, who heads the Household Division regiments and is in charge of the ceremonial organization of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, told BBC Radio 4.
Descendant of the Ghika ruling family and great-grandson of Marthea Bibescu, Major-General Ghika is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Ghika: “The first time I watched a parade was when I was a child, in the 70s. And in 1994 I was also part of the parade, as a member of the guard. In 2022, here I am Major General. It’s been an amazing journey.”
Last year, he coordinated the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip. And he also led the Irish Guards, the elite regiment of the British army, which ensured the entire protocol of the wedding of Prince William and Kate in April 2011.