The Daily Telegraph
Nation’s turn to say farewell
Royal family delivers Queen Elizabeth’s coffin to public as first of her subjects pay respects in Westminster Hall
‘As I was going past I did a curtsey and said prayers in my heart for her to be at peace and I thanked her. It’s difficult to think that she’s gone’
FOR SIX long days, they have carried their grief with dignity.
It is now time for us, a nation in mourning, to take over.
The Royal family, who less than a week ago learnt of the death of their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother at Balmoral, has passed her coffin from their care to the public, as the greatest lying-in-state spectacle in living memory begins.
The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, which had been accompanied by her daughter, the Princess Royal, from Scotland to Buckingham Palace where her wider family gathered around, was yesterday moved to Westminster Hall.
There it will lie until the day of her funeral, with a steady stream of mourners to ensure that the late Queen is never alone.
Last night, the first of those subjects walked through. Some, in formal black clothes, paused to remove their hats and bow their heads.
Others, wearing colourful coats and trainers, clasped their hands in brief prayer and stared up at the Imperial State Crown in wonder.
The coming days will see an estimated 400,000 people walk past, taking on the baton of public grieving from a Royal family that has done it so faultlessly until now.
Yesterday, as the steady beat of drums preceded them, they walked through the streets of London in that now-familiar ritual: the King, Princes, Dukes and a Princess following the Queen’s coffin with backs straight and eyes forward.
If the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex, walking next to each other, were lost in memories of the very different walk that they undertook for their mother 25 years ago, they did not let on.
Instead a King, who has been put through a relentless schedule over the past few days, marched determinedly, looking careworn in his grief.
Today, he and the Queen Consort will finally take time in private to rest and reflect.
After whirlwind visits to Scotland and Northern Ireland, audiences with key figures in UK public life, and calls to heads of state including Joe Biden, the US president, the 73-year-old King will take time to read the red boxes he has inherited from his mother away from the public gaze at his Highgrove home in Gloucestershire.
The Prince and Princess of Wales will briefly retreat to the Royal family’s haven in Norfolk, visiting Sandringham to thank the Queen’s staff in person and view flowers that have been left by her neighbours there.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex will meet the public and light a candle of remembrance in Manchester.
It will be a brief pause in ceremonial duties for the Royal family, who will reassemble to walk together again for the full state funeral on Monday.
On Tuesday night, they spent their final private moments en masse with the Queen’s coffin in the Bow Room of Buckingham Palace, before making way for her long-serving and loyal staff to pay their respects.
From there, as one royal source put it, “the coffin is passing from the family, to the state, to the nation”.
The first sign of how seriously the nation would take that task came at 1.45pm, when London’s City Hall declared all public viewing areas for the procession were full to capacity.
Crowds, surprisingly quiet, waited patiently for sounds and sights of British pomp and ceremony in full flow.
At 2.22pm, to the sound of Beethoven’s Funeral March No 1, the Queen’s coffin appeared, draped with the Royal Standard and pulled on the same gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery that carried both her father in 1952 and mother in 2002.
For the last time, her coffin passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace. To the beat of a drum, described by one commentator as the “metronome of grief”, mounted Metropolitan Police officers were followed by a dismounted detachment of The Life Guards of the Household Cavalry, then the Bands of the Grenadier and Scots Guards.
The bearer party around the coffin was formed by troops from The Queen’s Company 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
Behind them, came the King in his Marshal of the RAF attire, the uniformed Princess Royal and Earl of Wessex and the Duke of York, distinctive in his morning suit and medals.
Then, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex, with their cousin Peter Phillips, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, the Queen’s cousin the Duke of Gloucester, and the Earl of Snowdon, the son of Princess Margaret.
The Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales, the Duchess of Sussex and the Countess of Wessex travelled behind by car, paying tribute in their own way by wearing jewellery which once belonged to the Queen.
Members of the public with a frontrow view of the procession stood mostly in respectful silence, occasionally breaking out into applause.
Some, tears streaming, seemed surprised by the weight of their own emotions, their faces crumpling as the coffin moved past them and the death of the Queen became a stark reality.
In September sunshine, the jewels of the Imperial State Crown glittered on top of the coffin, on which was also placed a wreath of white flowers incorporating pine from the gardens at Balmoral and pittosporum, lavender and rosemary from Windsor.
As the procession passed the Cenotaph, those in uniform saluted while those in morning suits – including Prince Harry – bowed their heads. At the doors of Westminster Hall, men removed their hats as a King, Princes and Duke suddenly lowered their shoulders in relief to briefly become sons and grandsons again.
Joined by their wives, the Waleses standing a few steps ahead of the Sussexes, the family watched as the coffin was placed on the catafalque ready to lie in state, orb and sceptre on top.
Just over an hour later, the public were welcomed in.
The woman first in line, 56-year-old Vanessa Nanthakumaran from Harrow, north-west London, said: “As I was going past I did a curtsey and said prayers in my heart for her to be at peace, and I thanked her. It’s difficult to think that she’s gone.”
From today, those wishing to pay their respects could face a 10-mile queue through central London, with the line swelling from just a handful on Tuesday morning to tens of thousands in a matter of hours.
Ministers have drawn up contingency plans that will see people turned away from Southwark Park, the end point of the organised route, to prevent the queue infrastructure from becoming overwhelmed.
Last night, civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport acknowledged that human error was to blame for online live tracking technology which appeared to direct would-be mourners to California and then Yorkshire to join the end of the line.
The lying in state will end at 6.30am on Monday, ahead of the coffin being moved again to Westminster Abbey for a full state funeral.
It was also confirmed yesterday that all living holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross have been invited to attend the funeral.
They will take their seats among more than 500 dignitaries, including scores of overseas political leaders and members of foreign royal families.
It is understood that 17 of the 23 surviving recipients of the valour awards will be in attendance, some flying halfway around the world to be there.
The silence was broken only by the tolling of Big Ben once each minute, its mighty sound muffled by the thick walls of the Norman hall
A ripple of bows and curtseys followed the coffin on its path as the late Queen’s family showed their respect in turn
The sight was almost overwhelming, but it was the stillness and the silence that will leave the most lasting memories for those in Westminster Hall yesterday.
As the massed ranks of royalty, political leaders and servicemen gathered for Queen Elizabeth II’S lying in state, they discovered how it would feel if time could be paused. As the coffin was placed on its catafalque, history was being written in brilliant colours; the red, blue and gold of the Royal Standard, the purple pleated cloth beneath it, and the gemstones sparkling in the Imperial State Crown.
Yet history is normally a noisy affair, and in a room with hundreds of people bearing witness, it seemed impossible that there could be no sound at all. Not a footstep, not a whisper, not a cough.
The most affecting moment came as Westminster Hall awaited the arrival of the late Queen’s coffin. In every direction, familiar faces lined the ancient walls. The Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Sussex standing by the doorway. Forty other members of the Royal family over their shoulders. The Prime Minister, Privy Counsellors, Lords, knights, heralds, the choir of the Chapel Royal. And, in the centre of this vast space, the platform on which the coffin would soon rest, built in four tiers with the 6ft high catafalque on top, a candle burning at each corner.
The silence was broken only by the tolling of Big Ben once each minute, its mighty sound muffled by the thick walls of the Norman hall.
Waiting for their former sovereign and friend were the Queen’s seven ladies in waiting, some of whom, like Lady Susan Hussey and the Hon Mary Morrison, had served her for more than 60 years. They insisted on standing, despite advancing years.
Of the wider Royal family already inside the hall, only the Duchess of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent needed to be given a seat while they waited, but they stood for the arrival of their Queen and stayed standing throughout the 30-minute service.
At five minutes to three, the first distant sounds of a military band signalled that the coffin procession was approaching, and when the great doors of the hall swung open minutes later, backs were straightened, eyes turned, and as the entry of Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, signalled that the moment approached, the choir finally broke the silence with the singing of Psalm 139.
The coffin entered on the shoulders of Coldstream Guardsmen flown back from Iraq for the occasion, and the Imperial State Crown that adorned it seemed to dance with life, as pearls once owned by Queen Elizabeth I bobbed from its jewelled arches.
A ripple of bows and curtseys followed it on its path as the late Queen’s family showed their respect in turn. Then, as the King entered, the Queen Consort, the Princess of Wales, the Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Sussex fell into line with their husbands, forming two ranks that approached the catafalque.
Only the Duke of York walked without a partner, while the Queen’s cousins, the Duke of Kent – gallantly walking in dress uniform despite difficulty at the age of 86 – the Duke of Gloucester and Prince Michael of Kent formed a trio bringing up the rear.
The prayer service that followed, led
Lady Gabriella Kingston appeared to faint, but recovered composure and was able to curtsey to the coffin as she left
by the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, turned a historic moment into a deeply spiritual one. The service also saw the beginning of the vigil that will be staged until the lying in state ends on Monday morning. Guardsmen took up positions at each corner of the dais, with four Yeomen of the Guard providing an outer cordon, their swords and halberds held point downwards, their heads bowed.
The Grenadier Guards’ Queen’s Company, which oversees the transition from one monarch to another, must now change its name to the King’s Company, and be presented with new colours for a new sovereign.
Its regimental flag, specific to Her Majesty, was ritually laid at the foot of the Queen’s coffin by the Captain of the Queen’s Company, representing her lifelong association with the company, of which she was commander, and with the wider Armed Forces.
At the head of the coffin, the Cross of Westminster was placed in a holder by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr David Hoyle.
Then, with the ceremony over, the King and other members of the Royal family took their leave. Those in uniform saluted, but the Duke of York and the Duke of Sussex, who had been denied the chance to appear in uniform, bowed their heads.
Lady Gabriella Kingston, the daughter of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, appeared to faint, but recovered her composure and was able to curtsey to the coffin as she left.
Royal servants paid their own respects too, among them the figure of Paul Whybrew, Page of the Backstairs to the Queen, known to her as “tall Paul”. With the Royal family gone, all that was left was for the almost 300 MPS and Peers to file past, each turning to bow or curtsey from the side of the catafalque, then progress along the carpets laid over the stone floor to deaden the sound of thousands of people filing past day and night.
Party affiliations were ignored as the MPS watched the service. Priti Patel stood with Ed Miliband, James Cleverly stood with Harriet Harman.
There was one final ceremonial duty to perform before the doors could be opened to the public.
The orb and sceptre, which will be presented to the King at his Coronation, were placed atop the coffin beside the Imperial State Crown, the ultimate mark of respect for our longest-reigning monarch.