LONDON (AP) – Thousands of people spent London’s coldest night in months crammed to see the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, with authorities warning Saturday that arriving mourners face a 24-hour wait.
Police arrested a man after what the force described as a “disturbance” on Friday night at Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s coffin lies, draped in her Royal Standard and topped with a diamond crown.
Parliamentary authorities said someone got out of the queue and tried to approach the coffin on its platform. The Metropolitan Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.
The tide of people wanting to say goodbye to the Queen has grown steadily since the public was first admitted to the hall on Wednesday. On Friday, authorities temporarily suspended more visitors from joining the end of the line, which winds around Southwark Park about 5 miles (8 kilometers) from Parliament.
Overnight, volunteers handed out blankets and cups of tea to people in line as the temperature dropped to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit).
Simon Hopkins, who traveled from his home in central England, likened it to “a pilgrimage”.
“(It’s) a little weird, because that goes against my sense,” he said. “I’ve been kind of drawn to it.”
Members of the public continued in silence towards Westminster Hall even as the Queen’s four children – King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – watched over the flag-draped coffin for 15 minutes friday evening A baby’s cry was the only sound.
Ahead of the vigil, Edward said the royal family was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of emotion that has surrounded us and by the sheer number of people who have gone out of their way to express their own love, admiration and respect (for ) our dear mother.”
The eight grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II are to keep vigil by her coffin on Saturday. Charles’ sons Prince William and Prince Harry will attend along with Princess Anne’s children Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Prince Edward’s two children: Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
William, who after the death of his grandmother is now the heir to the throne, will stand at the head of the coffin and Harry at the feet. Both princes, who are military veterans, will be in costume.
Most members of the royal family hold honorary military positions and have worn uniforms to commemorate the Queen. Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British Army officer, dressed as a civilian during the Queen’s coffin procession from Buckingham Palace because he is no longer a working member of the royal family. He and his wife Meghan stepped down from royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020.
The king, however, has asked that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms to the Westminster Hall vigil.
People queuing to see the Queen have been of all ages and come from all walks of life. Many bowed before the coffin or made the sign of the cross. Several veterans, their medals gleaming in the spotlights, offered a loud salute. Some people were crying. Many hugged as they walked away, proud to have spent hours queuing to pay their respects, even if it only lasted a few moments.
Among the mourners on Friday was former England football captain David Beckham, who queued for almost 12 hours to pay his respects. Wearing a white shirt and black tie, he bowed briefly to the coffin before leaving Westminster Hall.
“As a nation we have been very fortunate to have had someone who has led us as Her Majesty has led us, throughout, with kindness, care and always calm,” Beckham told reporters afterwards.
The lie-in-state is due to continue until Monday morning, when the Queen’s coffin will be taken to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, the end of 10 days of national mourning for the monarch. across the UK. Elizabeth, 96, died at her Balmoral estate in Scotland on September 8 after 70 years on the throne.
Hundreds of heads of state, royals and political leaders from around the world are flying to London to attend the funeral, including US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.
Following the service at the Abbey, the late Queen’s coffin will be carried through historic central London in a horse-drawn carriage. It will then be taken in a hearse to Windsor, where the Queen will be buried next to her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
Hundreds of soldiers from Britain’s army, air force and navy took part in a dawn rehearsal for the final procession on Saturday. As troops lined The Long Walk, a picturesque path leading to Windsor Castle, the sound of drums rang out into the night as marching bands marched past a hearse.
London police said the funeral will be the biggest police event the force has ever handled, beating even the 2012 Summer Olympics and June’s Platinum Jubilee to celebrate 70 years of queen
“The range of officers, police staff and everyone who supports the operation is truly immense,” Metropolitan Police Assistant Deputy Commissioner Stuart Cundy said.
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