The Daily Telegraph

Her Majesty’s queue is the best of Britain

- Allison pearson

Still weighing up whether to join that daunting queue as it makes its way to Westminste­r Hall to pay homage to our beloved late monarch, I am eager for feedback from those who have made the pilgrimage. Is it worth it?

“She was so calm and powerful,” reported my 23-year-old god-daughter who finally stood in front of Elizabeth the Irreplacea­ble’s coffin on its catafalque at 1.02am yesterday morning. “Definitely worth the eight-hour wait, but it’s easy to forget how tiring the queue is until you’ve seen her and are walking home.”

Exultant but exhausted, the author Ysenda Maxtone Graham spent yesterday morning in bed with “jelly legs”. She says it took nine hours after joining the queue near London Bridge. There was a false dawn when Ysenda and the new friends she had made thought the line was moving swiftly only to get stuck in “Ordeal by Zig-zag” in Victoria Tower Gardens, where 8,000 kettled people snaked up and down. Actual dawn was breaking by the time Maxtone Graham walked into the hall and saw the great queen she had revered in life protected in death by statue-still Coldstream Guards. “To be in there was overwhelmi­ngly moving. Utterly beautiful and still.”

The British genius for pageantry is matched only by Olympic endurance in waiting our turn. Breaking news yesterday that there was a special fast lane for MPS, who have been given four timed tickets for guests, is the only thing to have dented the mood of national unity since Her Majesty left us eight days ago. Crowds lining up along the Thames were furious. We can’t abide queue-jumpers. Politician­s, who have been shut up by the passing of an outstandin­g human who achieved more than they ever will, should step into line with the men, women, even children, who emulate the stoicism their sovereign taught them.

There is a profound simplicity, almost a holiness, to the impulse which is calling thousands to that place, I think. “If Her Majesty did all that for us for 70 years, then we can put up with a bit of discomfort for her” is the attitude.

“I cannot lead you into battle,” the young Queen told the nation in her first televised Christmas message in 1957, “I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands.”

From every corner of these old islands, members of the Silent Majority converge on the capital, instinctiv­ely wanting to repay her devotion, her love. Through the wonders of technology, the BBC has launched a live stream of the lying in state for people unable to queue. It is mesmerisin­g. Every kind of Briton imaginable has shown up. Old, young, prosperous, struggling, soldiers, formally attired, sweat-shirted, families, weeping widows, a perky terrier who would have made instant friends with Her Majesty. Each has a few seconds alone in front of the coffin.

A lad in a hoodie paused awkwardly before bowing his head. Behind him, visibly touched by this act of obeisance in one so young, stood a veteran, the chest of his macintosh bristling with medals. When his turn came, the old soldier took off his beret, put down his walking stick, snapped to attention and saluted. A handsome man in a spiffy suit dropped to one knee as if proposing to a sweetheart. That one really got to me. Mothers brought tiny babies so, one day, they could say they were there as the page of history turned. A worker in a yellow fluorescen­t jacket blew a kiss at the coffin and turned briskly away to hide his emotion. Watching people trying not to cry makes you cry.

Next, a tiny Indian woman pressed her upright hands together in prayer and bowed with exquisite grace. The claim by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Oprah that the monarchy is racist doesn’t seem to have deterred Britons from every ethnic minority coming to express their sorrow and venerate the memory of the Queen. (That shameless pair, who caused the monarch such distress in the past 18 months of her life, should count themselves lucky to be included in the ceremonies at all.)

Many of the thousands coming every hour now to Westminste­r Hall to pay tribute just shut their eyes, as if taking a picture for the memory. They know we will not see the late Queen’s like again. Watching the live stream late into the night – the gentle courtesy, the respect, the personal loss expanded somehow into a shared feeling of gratitude and hope – is to have one’s faith in the British people restored. Queen Elizabeth II never lost it.

On Monday morning, VIPS, ambassador­s, presidents and panjandrum­s, flunkies in furbelows, dignitarie­s and foreign royalty will get out of their limousines and smoothly enter the Abbey for the funeral of the century. No queues. It will be a stirring sight, but the most heartfelt tribute to the peerless lady in the coffin will have already taken place. They also serve who only stand and wait.

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