Queen Elizabeth II lies in state after the procession
The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II left Buckingham Palace for the last time on Wednesday, carried in a horse-drawn carriage and greeted by cannons and the tinkling of Big Ben, in a solemn procession through the flag-draped streets of London and lined with crowds. Westminster Hall. There, Britain’s longest-serving monarch will mourn for the world.
Her son, King Charles III, and his siblings and sons walked behind the coffin, which was topped with a wreath of white roses and its crown resting on a purple velvet pillow.
The military procession from the palace marked Elizabeth’s seven decades as head of state as the process of national mourning moved to the grand boulevards and historic monuments of the British capital.
Crowds filed past his coffin in the center of 900-year-old Westminster Hall late into the night. People streamed in in two lines, with hundreds of thousands expected to pay their respects ahead of his state funeral on Monday.
They descended silently at a steady pace down the steps of the hall under a large stained glass window, then passed the coffin covered with the royal standard and placed on a raised platform called a catafalque by eight pallbearers.
There were couples and parents with children, veterans with medals clinking on navy blazers, lawmakers and members of the House of Lords. Some wore black or suits and ties, others jeans and sneakers, and all had waited hours to stand a moment in front of the coffin.
Many bowed or curtsied and some were in tears.
Thousands of people who had waited for the procession for hours along the mall outside the palace and other spots along the route held up phones and cameras, and some wiped tears as they passed of the coffin. Applause erupted as he passed Horse Guards Parade. Thousands more in nearby Hyde Park watched on big screens.
The coffin was topped with the Imperial State Crown – encrusted with nearly 3,000 diamonds – and a bouquet of flowers and plants, including pines from the Balmoral estate, where Elizabeth died on September 8 at age 96 years old.
Two officers and 32 soldiers of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in red uniforms and bearskin hats walked on either side of the gun carriage. The 38-minute procession ended at Westminster Hall, where Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led a service attended by Charles and other senior royals.
“Let your heart not be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if not, I would have told you,” Welby read in the Book of John.
After a short service, the captain of the Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, assisted by a staff sergeant, poses the royal standard of the regiment on the steps of the catafalque.
Four Household Cavalry officers – two from the Life Guards and two from the Blues Royals – began the vigil, taking their places at each corner and bowing their heads.
Thousands of people had lined up along the banks of the Thames, waiting to enter the hall and pay their respects to the only monarch most Britons have ever known after his 70 years on the throne.
Esther Ravenor, a Kenyan who lives in the UK, said she was humbled watching the procession.
« I love the Queen, I love the Royal Family, and you know, I had to be here, » she said. « She’s a real role model. She loved all of us, all of us. Especially someone like me, a migrant woman who came to the UK 30 years ago, I was allowed to be here and be free and safe, so I really honor her. She was a big part of my life.
Major General Christopher Ghika of the Household Division, who organized the ceremonial aspects of the Queen’s funeral, said it was « our last chance to do our duty for the Queen, and this is our first chance to do it for the king, and that makes us all very proud.
The troops involved in the procession had been preparing since the Queen’s death. The same was true for the horses of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
sergeant. Tom Jenks said the horses had been specially trained, including how to handle weeping mourners, as well as flowers and flags thrown in front of the procession.
Heathrow Airport temporarily halted flights, saying it would « ensure silence over central London as the ceremonial procession moves from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall ».
President Joe Biden spoke with Charles on Wednesday to offer his condolences, the White House said.
Biden recalled « the Queen’s kindness and hospitality » as she hosted them and the first lady at Windsor Castle in June, the statement said. « He also conveyed the great admiration of the American people for the Queen, whose dignity and steadfastness deepened the enduring friendship and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. »
Crowds lined the route of the Queen’s coffin each time it was moved on its long journey from Scotland to London.
On Tuesday evening, thousands braved a typical London drizzle as the hearse, with interior lights illuminating the coffin, drove slowly from an airbase to Buckingham Palace.
Earlier in Edinburgh, around 33,000 people marched silently past his coffin in 24 hours at St Giles Cathedral.
The line of people meandering along the banks of the River Thames to enter Westminster Hall, Parliament’s oldest building, was nearly 3 miles long in the afternoon, according to a government tracker.
The hall is where Guy Fawkes and Charles I were judged, where kings and queens held magnificent medieval banquets, and where ceremonial speeches were given to Queen Elizabeth II during her Silver Jubilees, of gold and diamonds.
Chris Bond, from Truro in south-west England, was among those waiting to view the Queen’s coffin. He also attended the Queen’s Mother’s Laying in State in 2002.
« Obviously it’s quite difficult to queue all day, but when you walk through those doors into Westminster Hall, this wonderful historic building, there was a great sense of silence and you were told you were taking as many time as you want, and it’s just amazing, » he said.
« We know the Queen was of a good age and served the country for a long time, but we hoped that day would never come, » he added.
Chris Imafidon, got the sixth place in the queue.
« I have 1,001 emotions when I see her, » he said. « I mean, God, she was an angel, because she touched a lot of good people and did so many good things. »
Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui contributed.