All eight of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren stood in silence by her coffin on Saturday, capping off another day in which thousands of people came to pay their respects to the late monarch.
Members of the public who wanted to pay their respects to the late monarch huddled in a motorcade that wound its way through London, braving the city’s coldest night in months on Friday. Authorities have warned that even colder weather is expected on Saturday night.
“Tonight’s forecast is cold. Warm clothing is recommended,” tweeted Britain’s Department for Culture, which is in charge of the line.
Draped in her royal standard and adorned with a diamond-encrusted crown, the Queen’s coffin lies in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the British Parliament. Her funeral will take place on Monday, and US President Joe Biden and other world leaders will fly to the British capital for the mass.
Tens of thousands of people who wanted to say goodbye to Elizabeth II. have flocked to the Hall since it opened on Wednesday. The number of mourners has grown steadily since the public was first admitted, with the line winding all the way from central London to Southwark Park in the south.
Yesterday, the wait was 24 hours early in the morning, and the queue stretched for at least 8 kilometers. But it shortened during the day.
Respecting their patience, King Charles III and his eldest son Prince William made an unannounced visit on Saturday to greet people waiting to pass Elizabeth’s coffin, shake hands and thank mourners in the queue near Lambeth Bridge.
Later, all the queen’s grandchildren stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, Charles’ sons, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Prince Edward’s two children – Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
Both princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. The mourners continued to pass in silence.
Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British Army officer, wore civilian clothes earlier this week as the Queen’s casket left Buckingham Palace because he is no longer an active member of the royal family.
He and his wife, Meghan, stepped down from royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. However, the king has requested that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms at the Westminster Hall vigil.
Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “beloved grandmother”.
“We, like many, thought you would be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our back guiding us through this world. You have taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.
The people queuing to see the Queen represent all ages and come from all walks of life. Many bowed before the coffin or crossed themselves. A few veterans, with shiny medals, saluted sharply. Some people were crying. Others sent kisses.
During the night, volunteers handed out blankets and cups of tea to people in line as temperatures dropped to 6 degrees Celsius.
Despite the weather, mourners described the warmth of the shared experience.
“It was cold overnight, but we had wonderful gatherings, met new friends. The company was wonderful”, said Chris Harman from London. “It was worth it. I would do it again and again and again. I would walk to the ends of the earth for my queen.”
Simon Hopkins, who traveled from his home in central England, likened it to a “pilgrimage”.
“[It] it’s a bit strange, because it’s kind of against my wishes,” he said. “I was kind of drawn into it.”
Saturday’s vigil followed a vigil on Friday in which four of the Queen’s children – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward – kept vigil by the coffin.
Edward said the royal family were “overwhelmed by the tidal wave of emotion that engulfed us and the huge number of people who went out of their way to express their love, admiration and respect [for] our dear mother.”
On Saturday, King Charles III held an audience with future prime ministers, governors-general of the kingdom and military leaders.
The Metropolitan Police arrested a man on Friday night during an investigation on suspicion of disturbing the peace.
The funeral continues until early Monday morning, when the Queen’s coffin will be moved to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, ending 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
After Monday’s service at the abbey, the coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London on a horse-drawn carriage. He will then be taken by hearse to Windsor, where the Queen will be laid to rest next to her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
Hundreds of soldiers from the British Army, Air Force and Navy held an early morning rehearsal on Saturday for the final procession.
As the troops lined the picturesque path leading to Windsor Castle, the beating of drums echoed in the air as the orchestras marched in front of the hearses.
London police say the funeral will be the biggest single police event the police have ever held, surpassing even the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Platinum Jubilee in June which celebrates the Queen’s 70-year reign.
Elizabeth, 96, died on September 8 at her Balmoral estate in Scotland, after 70 years on the throne.