LONDON (AP) – All eight grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II stood in silent vigil near her coffin on Saturday, another big day that saw thousands of people pay tribute to her. Grieving in a row across London, mourning the city’s coldest night in months, waited for 16 hours.
Officials warned that more cold weather was likely on Saturday night. “Tonight’s forecast is cold. Warm clothing is recommended,” tweeted the ministry in charge of the line.
US President Joe Biden and other world leaders and dignitaries flew to London ahead of the Queen’s state funeral on Monday, another day of people wishing to say goodbye to Parliament’s Westminster Hall on Saturday. It is here that the queen’s coffin lies in the kingdom, draped in her royal standard and covered with a crown studded with diamonds.
There has been a steady increase in the number of mourners since they were first admitted to the public on Wednesday, with a line that snakes around Southwark Park and stretches for at least 5 miles (8 kilometres).
Honoring their patience, King Charles III and his eldest son Prince William made an unannounced visit on Saturday to greet those waiting to file Elizabeth’s coffin, shaking hands and approaching Lambeth Bridge. Thanks to the mourners in the queue.
Afterwards, all the grandchildren of the queen stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, Charles’ son, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and two children of Prince Edward – Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
William, now the heir to the throne, stood, his head bowed, at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both the princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. The mourners kept recording the past in silence.
Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British Army officer, wore civilian clothes earlier in the week as the Queen’s coffin left Buckingham Palace as he is no longer a working member of the royal family. He and his wife Meghan have quit royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. However, the King requested that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms at Westminster Hall.
Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “dear grandmother.”
“We, like many people, thought that you would be here forever. And we all miss you dearly. You were our parents, our guide, our loving hand on our backs that led us into this world.” You taught us so much and we will always cherish those lessons and memories,” the sisters wrote.
The people queuing to see the queen are of all ages and come from all walks of life. Many bowed their heads in front of the coffin or made the sign of the cross. Several veterans, shining their medals, gave a scathing salute. Some people cried. Others blew the kiss. Many hugged each other as they walked away, proud that they spent hours in line to pay tribute, even if it only lasted a few moments.
Throughout the night, volunteers distributed blankets and cups of tea to those in line as the temperature dropped to 6 °C (43 °F). Regardless of the season, mourners described the warmth of a shared experience.
“It was cold all night, but we had wonderful partners, met new friends. The camaraderie was amazing,” said Chris Herman of London. “It was worth it. I’ll do it over and over again. I’ll walk to the ends of the earth for my queen.”
People had many reasons to come, from their affection for the Queen to the desire to be a part of the historic moment. Simon Hopkins, traveling from his home in central England, likened it to “a pilgrimage”.
“(It) is a little weird, because it goes against my grain,” he said. “I’m kind of drawn into it.”
Saturday’s vigil followed one on Friday in which the Queen’s four children – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – stood in the coffin.
Edward added that the royal family is “overwhelmed by the tide of emotion that has gripped us and the many who have gone out of their way to express their love, admiration and respect (for) our beloved mother.” Huh.”
On Saturday, the new king was holding an audience with the visiting prime ministers, governor generals of the region and military leaders.
The Metropolitan Police arrested a man Friday night while on the lookout for a suspected public order offense. Parliamentary officials said someone tried to move from the queue to the coffin.
Tracy Holland told Sky News that her 7-year-old niece, Darcy Holland, was turned out of the way by a man who “tried to try to run up to the coffin, raise the standard and do, I don’t know what.” She said police took the man into custody in “two seconds”.
The lay-in-state continues until Monday morning, when the Queen’s coffin will be moved to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, marking a 10-day national run for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. The mourning is over. Elizabeth, 96, died on 8 September at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, after 70 years on the throne.
Following Monday’s service at the abbey, the late Queen’s coffin will be carried from London’s historic center on a horse-drawn gun carriage. It will then be taken to Windsor, where the Queen will be buried with her late husband Prince Philip, who died last year.
Late on Saturday, the government revealed details of where the public could watch the day’s services and processions.
In addition to several viewing areas along the route, mourners will be able to watch at screens set up in Hyde Park, adjacent to Buckingham Palace. There will also be screening sites in many towns and cities across the UK and around 125 cinemas will open for funeral screenings.
Hundreds of soldiers from the British Army, Air Force and Navy rehearsed early Saturday for the final procession. As soldiers lined the picturesque route leading to Windsor Castle, the rumble of drums echoed in the air as marching bands moved ahead of a chariot.
London Police say the funeral will be the largest single police event ever, surpassing even the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Platinum Jubilee in June, which celebrates the Queen’s 70-year reign.