Berliner TageBlatt - London mourners brave long wait for 'seconds' with queen

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London mourners brave long wait for 'seconds' with queen
London mourners brave long wait for 'seconds' with queen / Foto: © AFP

London mourners brave long wait for 'seconds' with queen

Braving chilly winds and a rainy night, mourners gathered in London before dawn on Wednesday, ready to endure hours of discomfort for a chance to view Queen Elizabeth II's coffin lying in state.


By around 8:30 am (0730 GMT), hundreds were patiently waiting in line opposite the Palace of Westminster, where the late monarch's coffin will go on public display from 5:00 pm.

The line was long but not enormous and watched over by security personnel in high-vis vests.

Some people were swathed in blankets while others slept in chairs or curled up beside the parapet of the River Thames embankment.

Many warmed themselves with cups of tea and brought camping chairs, umbrellas and takeaway snacks and coffees to make the wait more palatable.

"We didn't sleep at all," said reitree Rob Paige, 65, who came with his 67-year-old wife, Maureen.

"It was a bit of a damp night," she added with typical British understatement.

"After 1:00 am it was quiet, we walked... There was a drizzle," said Rob.

"A lot more people arrived around 5:00 am this morning."

- 'Spiritual purity' -

People in line chatted good-humouredly with each other and with the police officers stationed there.

Some stepped away to buy rounds of coffees and lent out sleeping bags.

"Such royal events are always like this: terrible weather but great fun!" said Rob.

"Unfortunately, we couldn't see (the 2002 funeral of) the Queen Mother, but this is the big one that we couldn't miss," said Maureen.

"I will definitely curtsy to pay my respects."

Elsewhere in the line, mourner Brian Flatman recalled missing another key moment in royal history: the queen's 1953 coronation.

"I was 16, we got there before midnight -- Hyde Park Corner, superb position -- but very quickly I became suddenly ill and had to crawl all the way to South London where I live," he remembered.

This time the pensioner in a flat cap was determined not to miss out and had stayed overnight.

Walking past the queen's coffin, he expects, will be a solemn "moment of timelessness".

"There will be me and the queen's remains in front of me. I think it will be an experience of immense profundity and spiritual purity," he said.

- 'Sense of loss' -

June Allen-Westbrook, a 78-year-old wheelchair user, said she had not hesitated to turn up at 5:00 am.

"I will probably shed a tear," she conceded.

Her friend, 67-year-old Janice Cook, added: "She's been my queen for my entire life and more. It's an honour to be here."

Filing past the coffin will be "more personal and intimate" than watching the royal procession earlier that afternoon, said Delilah Emerson, a 26-year-old translator from Oxford.

"We are still processing the shock and sense of loss," she said.

The government has planned for queues to stretch as far as five miles (eight kilometres) from the UK parliament to Southwark Park.

"It's one of these things you have to be part of," says Sam Gibbons, a 33-year-old personal trainer wearing a Union Jack jacket.

"Even though it's going to be a few seconds, it's just important."

He said he came along as a way of "giving back that tiny minuscule thank you for what she did".