Keep calm and carry a blanket. Despite chilly temps and government officials’ best efforts to wrangle the ever-growing queue, thousands of mourners have stood in line overnight for a chance to bid a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.
Meanwhile, dignitaries such as President Biden have traveled to London to pay their last respects to the monarch, who died earlier this month at age 96.
The wait times peaked at 24 hours shortly after the public was first admitted into Parliament’s Westminster Hall in London, where the Queen’s coffin will remain until her funeral on Monday.
Temperatures early Saturday dipped as low as 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The chilly weather was anticipated to continue Saturday night into Sunday morning.
“Tonight’s forecast is cold. Warm clothing is recommended,” the ministry in charge of the line tweeted.
Ambulance crews have treated hundreds of people waiting in the line, dozens of whom have been hospitalized, BBC reports. Volunteers were also distributing blankets and cups of tea to people in line.
Despite the chilly weather, mourners described the warmth of a shared experience.
“It was cold overnight, but we had wonderful companions, met new friends. The camaraderie was wonderful,″ Chris Harman of London said. “It was worth it. I would do it again and again and again. I would walk to the end of the earth for my queen.”
People had many reasons for coming, from affection for the queen to a desire to be part of a historic moment. Simon Hopkins, who traveled from his home in central England, likened it to “a pilgrimage.”
“(It) is a bit strange, because that kind of goes against my grain,” he said. “I’ve been kind of drawn into it.”
King Charles III and his eldest son Prince William thanked well-wishers for their patience during a surprise visit Saturday morning. By then, the line snaked its way around Southwark Park, stretching out at least 5 miles.
Later on in the day, the Prince of Wales joined his brother, Prince Harry, to hold vigil at her lying in state ceremony. William, now heir to the throne, stood with his gaze cast downward near the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform at the request of the King.
The rest of the Queen’s grandchildren, Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and the two children of Prince Edward – Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, also stood with them.
Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “beloved grannie.”
“We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.
The lying-in-state will continue until early Monday morning, when the queen’s coffin will be transported to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, bringing a close to the 10-day mourning period sparked by the Queen’s death at Balmoral on Sept. 8. She was the nation’s longest-reigning monarch.
Hundreds of dignitaries from around the world are gathering to pay their last respects, including President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, who flew Saturday on Air Force One.
On Sunday, the Bidens will join King Charles, Queen Consort Camilla as well as other members of the royal family and world leaders at a reception at Buckingham Palace.
Despite initially receiving an invitation to the event, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, will not be in attendance. The palace in a statement to People emphasized the gathering is “for working members of the royal family.”
With News Wire Services