The UK government on Saturday urged people not to travel to queue to pass Queen Elizabeth’s coffin as huge demand means people have to queue for at least 24 hours to reach her while lying down.
Tens of thousands of people have already streamed past the coffin in a steady, solemn stream, queuing for hours through the dark and cold to pay their respects to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch – a testament to the affection in which they was held.
On Saturday, the culture department said it would suspend entry to the queue if demand got too high, adding at 1am (0000 GMT) “Please don’t travel.”
The death of the queen on September 8 at her summer estate in the Scottish Highlands has sparked a flood of emotions across the country and 10 days of highly choreographed events.
After the coffin sat for 24 hours in the Scottish capital, it was flown south to London, where tens of thousands of people crowded a normally busy road in the driving rain to watch the flag-draped coffin being wheeled to Buckingham Palace.
On Friday evening, King Charles joined his three siblings – Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward in a silent vigil at the coffin, while their eight children, including William and Harry, will form their own ceremonial guard later on Saturday.
Like many, Sarah Boniface, a 60-year-old real estate agent, was in tears and emotional as she left the grand Westminster Hall on Friday night after standing for 14 hours after watching the new king hold the vigil as she walked past the coffin.
“It’s been worth every minute. Every minute,” she said, visibly holding back her tears. “I’m so lucky to have paid the Queen my respects and seen our new King.”
Debts to the Queen
For retiree Hasmukh Vara, 62, his decision to stand for 13 hours to observe the reclining in the state reflected his desire to thank the late monarch – and Britain – after coming to the island from Kenya in the 1970s. country had moved.
When he emerged from the huge, brightly lit hall into the cool Friday night darkness by the River Thames, he described himself as “very, very high”.
“We came to this country as refugees,” he told Reuters. “All my life I’ve been indebted to her for giving us a home. It’s something we can never, ever forget. It’s a big deal for me and my family.”
The Queen’s children have described being overwhelmed by the reaction to their mother’s death.
Monday’s state funeral, attended by nearly 100 presidents and heads of government, including those from the United States, France, Australia, Japan, Jamaica and Canada, will likely be one of the largest ceremonial events ever held in Britain.
On Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked past the coffin – one of the first leaders to arrive. The Prime Minister of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jason Kenney, described the meeting in central London as “this huge, diverse gathering of people from all over the world”.
King Charles will meet the prime ministers of the 14 other countries where he is head of state on Saturday. He will also meet emergency services staff who help organize the funeral.
Later, the focus will shift to the younger royals and their wake.
Heir to the throne William and his brother Harry, who have grown apart in recent years after Harry moved to the United States, will both stand guard at the coffin in military uniform.
Harry served two missions with the British Army in Afghanistan, but has so far appeared in processions in morning suits after losing his military honors when he retired from public royal duties.
The vigil will take place at the oak chest, which stands on a purple-lined catafalque, draped in the royal standard and bearing the jeweled Imperial State Crown.
The two brothers are joined by their cousins Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, the children of Princess Anne, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the children of Prince Andrew, and Louise and James, the children of Prince Edward.
Police said a man had been arrested after a disturbance near the coffin on Friday night, who was being held for an offense under the Public Order Act.