London mourners face long queue to see Queen's coffin

Vanessa Nathakumaran was the first person to arrive at the designated location to queue in Victoria Tower Gardens for Britain's Queen Elizabeth II's lying in state in London, on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The hearse carrying the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II passes by Marble Arch on its way back to Buckingham Palace, on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON - The queue for mourners to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth in London could stretch up to 7.5km, the government said on Tuesday as it set out arrangements for her lying-in-state.

Around 750,000 people are expected to file past Elizabeth's coffin inside parliament's Westminster Hall from 5pm local time on Wednesday. The queen died last week, aged 96, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

The outpouring of sadness triggered by her death has already drawn large crowds in Scotland, where she lay for 24 hours in St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. Around 33,000 people paid their respects during that period.

The London memorial, lasting almost five days and ending on the morning of her funeral, is a much larger occasion.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event to honour a once-in-a-lifetime woman," said Andrew Israels-Swenson, from Minnesota, who said his 82-year-old British mother asked him to attend to "represent the family".

He and around a dozen others formed a queue earlier on Tuesday to be among the first to see the coffin, which will be placed on a decorated platform inside a centuries-old hall in the British Parliament that bears plaques on the floor marking where her forebears have also lay in state.

"Please respect the dignity of this event and behave appropriately. You should remain silent while inside the Palace of Westminster," government-issued guidance said, also asking well-wishers not to film or photograph inside parliament.

The hundreds of thousands predicted to join the line will be asked to queue along the southern bank of the River Thames, winding past landmarks including the giant London Eye ferris wheel and a reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe theatre.

Upon joining the queue, mourners will be given a wristband allowing them to briefly leave the queue to use a toilet or get food and drink.

Volunteers, stewards and police will line the route, with cafes, theatre and other venues opening their doors to provide refreshments. The British Film institute will have an outdoor screen broadcasting footage of the queen and her reign.

"Anti-social or inappropriate behaviour (including queue-jumping, excessive consumption of alcohol or drunken behaviour) will not be tolerated and you will be removed from the queue," the government guidance said. REUTERS

Members of the public queue in the rain along the south bank of the River Thames in London, on Sept 13, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
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