The Queen will make her final journey from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday and officials are expecting tens of thousands of people to line the London streets around Westminster Hall where her coffin will lie in state for four days.
The casket will be taken on a horse-drawn gun carriage from the palace to the 900-year-old building on the parliamentary estate. The closed coffin will rest on a raised platform draped in the Royal Standard with the orb and sceptre placed on top.
The lying in state will run from 5 p.m. on Wednesday until just before the funeral service at Westminster Abbey on Monday morning.
The public will be able to pay their respects around the clock and officials have estimated that at least 400,000 will be able to pass through the hall. However, many more people are expected to try, and the line is likely to extend for more than five kilometres at a time. Mourners have been warned that they may have to wait for 12 hours and they won’t have a chance to sit or rest because the line will be moving constantly.
A handful of people began lining up Monday afternoon. “I’m here to pay my respects to her for all she has done for this country and the Commonwealth,” said Grace Gothard, who was third in line and came with a friend.
Draped in a British flag, Ms. Gothard brought some warm clothes and a small cut-out photo of the Queen that she hoped to take inside the hall. She worried that she might be too emotional by the time she views the coffin. “You see somebody’s mom lying down there and it’s your mom too,” she said.
Sarah Langley rushed over to get in line just after midnight on Monday after putting in a 10-hour shift at her job in a London railway station. “Someone will bring me clothes and blankets later, and lots of coffee,” she said with a laugh on Tuesday.
Ms. Langley said she came because she admired the Queen’s deep faith and her attachment to the Church of England. “Her faith grounded her in her duty,” she said. She plans to quietly say “thank you” when she gets to the casket on Wednesday. “Hopefully it will kind of end a chapter for me,” she added.
Delroy Morrison, who also joined the queue Monday night, brought an ornate African robe that he plans to wear as he walks toward Westminster Hall. He bought it years ago and he has only worn it on a few special occasions. This will be the last time he wears the tunic – in honour of the Queen. “Then I’ll have to buy a new one for King Charles,” he said.
Preparations for the lying in state and the funeral service have been continuing for days around the city. Guardsmen and soldiers in ceremonial uniforms have been rehearsing the funeral procession late at night at Buckingham Palace while dozens of mounted soldiers practised their drills near Hyde Park on Sunday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Aran Osman was busy cleaning one of the giant gas lamps that line the sidewalks around the Parliament Buildings and Westminster Abbey. “They are all looking nice and sparkly,” said Mr. Osman who works for British Gas and volunteered for the cleaning duty.
The lamps have been shut off for a year while city officials debated whether to replace them with LED lights. But Mr. Osman said the Queen’s funeral has renewed interest in keeping the ornate fixtures. ”They date back to 1815 and they’re beautiful,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll keep them.”
Earlier on Tuesday in Edinburgh, people continued to pay their respects before the Queen’s coffin at St. Giles’ Cathedral until it departed Scotland for the last time, flown by a military C-17 Globemaster to RAF Northolt, an air force base in Greater London.
Around 33,000 people filed past the Queen’s casket over the nearly 24 hours it had laid in rest at St. Giles’.
“I feel really quite privileged that I’ve now been in,” said Paula Buchanan, who joined the line when it was at its shortest on Tuesday morning. After the pomp and circumstance of processions for the Queen on Sunday and Monday, she said the visitation was more peaceful and intimate.
“You’re not hurried; you can spend time there if you wish to do so. There’s no words spoken because there doesn’t need to be,” she said.
King Charles spent Tuesday in Northern Ireland where he and Camilla, the Queen Consort, met local political leaders at Hillsborough Castle and attended a service of Thanksgiving at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
Northern Ireland has historically been a difficult place for the monarchy given the province’s sectarian tensions, but the Queen had won wide praise for helping advance the peace process in the 1990s. In recognition of that service, leaders from all parties, including the nationalist Sinn Fein, met King Charles on Tuesday.
“In the years since she began her long life of public service, my mother saw Northern Ireland pass through momentous and historic changes,” Charles told the gathering. “Through all those years, she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place and for its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our family had felt, and for whom she had a great affection and regard.”
Patrick O’Neill said he hoped Charles would be able to continue the work of his mother in Northern Ireland. “He will try to be the force for peace that the Queen was,” said Mr. O’Neill, who travelled to London from Belfast to watch the funeral procession. “People in Northern Ireland have to have the right to be Irish, British, Northern Irish or all three if they want, and that’s the only way that it will work.”
Late Tuesday, as police closed streets and patrolled the fencing around Buckingham Palace, Deborah Brailey took up her position along the Mall to get a good view of the carriage journey on Wednesday.
She’d travelled here from Devon, in southwest England, just a few weeks after hip surgery and against the wishes of her husband who thought she was “totally crazy.” She’s never done anything like this before, but she came prepared with a tent, a sleeping bag, yoga mat, water bottle, toilet paper and a hair brush. She worried that she might not be able to camp out so close to the palace, but officers told her and a few other campers that it was fine as long as their tents were only erected from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“I wanted to come here because I think she’s done great things for this country,” she said. “Besides, I was born on April 21, the same day as the Queen, and Elizabeth is my middle name.”
When asked what she will do when the coffin passes by, Ms. Brailey paused and replied: “I think I should just silently pay my respects and the tears will probably fall.”