© Reuters. A long exposure photograph showing members of the public as they file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s orb and sceptre, lying in state on the catafalque in Westminster Ha
By Michael Holden and Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) – The miles-long queue of mourners waiting to see Queen Elizabeth lying in state in London was temporarily closed on Friday after it reached capacity, officials said.
Tens of thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life have come to pay their respects to the late queen, joining a well-organised line that snakes along the south bank of the Thames then over the river to parliament’s Westminster Hall.
But by mid-morning, the line was just too big – a testimony to the public’s respect and affection for the queen, who died in Scotland on Sept. 8 at the age of 96 after a 70-year reign.
“Entry will be paused for at least 6 hours,” Britain’s culture department said. “Please do not attempt to join the queue until it re-opens.”
It warned of waiting times of up to 12 hours. Some 750,000 people in total are expected to file past the queen’s coffin before her state funeral on Monday.
“I’ve no sensation in my knees at all or my legs,” said Hyacinth Appah, a mourner from London who was in the queue.
“But it’s been fine. Most of the people have been lovely and we’ve had quite a nice time.”
Another mourner from London, Naomi Brown, said she waited for nearly 11 hours after joining the queue on Thursday night after work.
“I just thought, I’m never going to do it again. I have so much respect for the queen, not once did she ever falter,” 29-year-old Brown said, speaking to Reuters as she neared the front of the queue.
“She has been such a good symbol for our country … it feels like we have lost a family member.”
The queen’s coffin stands in Westminster Hall with soldiers and officials keeping vigil around it as people walk past to pay homage after their long wait. Many have been in tears, and many have saluted or bowed their heads.
London’s police force said on Friday the state funeral would be the biggest security operation it had ever undertaken as prime ministers, presidents and royals come together to pay their respects.
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the guests from overseas who have confirmed they will be attending.
King Charles, who acceded to the throne on his mother’s death, meanwhile was visiting Wales, the last stage of a tour of the United Kingdom to acknowledge his status as the new monarch and head of state and to greet the public mourning the loss of Elizabeth.
Charles and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, attended a service at Cardiff’s Llandaff Cathedral service. He will later visit the Welsh parliament and meet the Welsh first minister and other politicians.
Wales has a particular significance for the new king, who for five decades preceding last week’s accession had the title Prince of Wales.
“His passion and affection for Wales has been clear,” his spokesman said. “He has shown a life-long commitment to the country’s people.”