Nearly two hours before the procession of the Queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, the line already stretched from Parliament, across nearby Lambeth Bridge and along the opposite bank of the River Thames. People stood behind metal barriers or sat on folding chairs, umbrellas at the ready, takeout coffees in hand under grey skies.
Authorities have planned for a 16-kilometre route, with 1,000 marshals, stewards and police officers on hand at any given time to help manage it. An army of other volunteers includes multi-faith pastors and sign-language interpreters.
People are being warned they may have to wait for hours, but they are being given numbered wristbands so they can take food and bathroom breaks without losing their place in line.
When they get to Parliament, mourners must pass through airport-style security screening. Prohibited items include liquids, spray paint, knives, fireworks, flowers, candles, stuffed toys and “advertising or marketing messages.”
The Queen’s coffin was scheduled to leave the landmark palace at 9:22 a.m. ET. At that time, the coffin will be placed on a gun carriage of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery to be taken through central London to Westminster, a medieval building with origins dating back to 1097 that is the oldest building on the parliamentary estate.
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King Charles will walk in silence behind the carriage with all of the other senior royals, including his siblings Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Also in the procession will be Charles’s two sons William, 40, now the Prince of Wales, and Harry, 37, the Duke of Sussex.
Thousands at Scotland viewing
Crowds have lined the route of the Queen’s coffin whenever it has been moved in its long journey from Scotland back to London.
On Tuesday night, thousands braved a typical London drizzle as the state hearse, with interior lights illuminating the sovereign’s flag-draped casket, drove slowly from a military air base into the heart of London.
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Geoff Colgan, a taxi driver who took the day off to witness the moment, stood stunned in the moments after the Queen’s coffin passed.
“It’s one of those things you know would happen, but when it does you can’t believe it,” he said, holding his toddler.
Earlier, in Edinburgh, some 33,000 people filed in silent respect past her coffin as it lay for 24 hours at St. Giles’ Cathedral.
Hundreds of thousands are expected to do the same in London when the Queen lies in state at Westminster Hall for four days before her state funeral on Monday.
The hall is where Guy Fawkes and Charles I were tried, where kings and queens hosted magnificent medieval banquets, and where ceremonial addresses were presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her silver, golden and diamond jubilees.
Chris Bond, from Truro in southwest England, was among those lining up along the banks of the River Thames. He also attended the lying in state of the Queen’s mother in 2002.
“Obviously, it’s quite difficult queuing all day long, but when you walk through those doors into Westminster Hall, that marvellous, historic building, there was a great sense of hush and one was told you take as much time as you like, and it’s just amazing,” he said.
“We know the Queen was a good age and she served the country a long time, but we hoped this day would never come.”