AS tens of thousands of people poured into London ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral on Monday, the miles-long queue of mourners waiting to see her lying in state was temporarily closed on Friday after it swelled to capacity.
People of all ages and from all walks of life have paid their respects to the late queen, joining a well-organised line that stretches along the south bank of the Thames then over the river to parliament’s Westminster Hall.
But by mid-morning, the line was just too big – a testimony to the public’s respect and affection for the queen, who died in Scotland on September 8 at the age of 96 after a 70-year reign.
“Entry will be paused for at least 6 hours,” Britain’s culture department said shortly before 10 a.m. (0900 GMT) “Please do not attempt to join the queue until it re-opens.”
It warned of waiting times of up to 12 hours. Some 750,000 people in total are expected to file past the queen’s coffin.
On Friday night, King Charles, who was visiting Wales on Friday, his sister Princess Anne and brothers Princes Andrew and Edward will keep a silent vigil around the coffin, joining the ceremonial guard for a 15-minute period.
“I’ve no sensation in my knees at all or my legs,” said Hyacinth Appah, a mourner from London who was in the queue.
“But it’s been fine. Most of the people have been lovely and we’ve had quite a nice time.”
Another mourner from London, Naomi Brown, said she waited for nearly 11 hours after joining the queue on Thursday night after work.
“I just thought, I’m never going to do it again. I have so much respect for the queen, not once did she ever falter,” 29-year-old Brown said, speaking to Reuters as she neared the front of the queue.
“She has been such a good symbol for our country. It feels like we have lost a family member.”
The coffin stands in the ancient Westminster Hall on a purple-clad catafalque, draped in the Royal Standard and with the bejewelled Imperial State Crown placed on top.
Soldiers in ceremonial uniform and other officials are keeping vigil around it as people walk past to pay homage after their long wait. Many have been in tears, and others have saluted or bowed their heads.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in London for the funeral, was among those who visited Westminster Hall on Friday, stopping to curtsy as she filed past the coffin.
London’s police force said the state funeral would be the biggest security operation it had ever undertaken as prime ministers, presidents and royals come together to pay their respects.
The force was preparing for events ranging from terrorism threats to protests and crowd crushes, senior police official Stuart Cundy told reporters.
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the guests from overseas who have confirmed they will be attending.
VISIT TO WALES
King Charles, who acceded to the throne on his mother’s death, meanwhile was visiting Wales, the last stage of a tour of the United Kingdom to acknowledge his status as the new monarch and head of state and to greet the public.
Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, attended a service at Cardiff’s Llandaff Cathedral service then talked with cheering well-wishers outside.
Wales has a particular significance for the new king, who for five decades preceding last week’s accession had the title Prince of Wales.
Speaking at the Welsh parliament, Charles said: “Through all the years of her reign, the land of Wales could not have been closer to my mother’s heart. I know she took immense pride in your many great achievements – even as she also felt with you deeply in time of sorrow.”
“I am resolved to honour that selfless example,” he said, speaking in Welsh and English.
“I take up my new duties with immense gratitude for the privilege of having been able to serve as Prince of Wales. That ancient title … I now pass to my son William.”
There were a few anti-monarchy protesters outside Cardiff Castle, where Charles met Welsh First Minster Mark Drakeford.
One man held a banner saying “Cancel Royals” and a placard saying “End Prince of Wales Title”. Another man held a sign saying: “No to Monarchy, No to Charles, Great Reset”. Another read: “Not My King”.
Similar small protests have been held outside parliament and in Edinburgh over the past days, although King Charles has enjoyed a surge in support since he succeeded Elizabeth.
The new Prince of Wales, William, and his brother Prince Harry and the queen’s six other grandchildren will stand vigil at the coffin on Saturday evening, a royal spokesman said.
In an adjustment to protocol, both Harry and his uncle Prince Andrew will be allowed to wear military uniform when they take their turns at vigil, royal officials said. Andrew will perform the duty with his siblings on Friday evening.
Both are war veterans, Andrew having served as a Royal navy helicopter pilot in the Falklands War and Harry serving two tours of duty with the British Army in Afghanistan.
But so far they have appeared in processions in morning suits as they lost their honorary military titles when they stepped back from public royal duties.
The state funeral is likely to be one of the grandest ceremonies ever seen in the British capital, involving thousands of military personnel.
Earl Marshal, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, who is in charge of state occasions, said he hope the funeral “will unite people across the globe”.
London’s Heathrow Airport has said it will cancel 15% of its flight schedule on Monday to reduce noise over the city and guarantee that the skies will be quiet during a two-minute silence at the end of the funeral.
Monday has been declared a national holiday. Many shops will be closed and a range of other economic activities will grind to a halt. Thousands of people face cancelled doctor appointments or operations under the state health service.