A historic day as the Queen was laid in state in Westminster Hall and thousands came out to bear witness - James Mates reports
Thousands of people have taken their spots in the queue for the Queen’s lying in state as the public prepares to pay its last respects.
People queuing to see the Queen Lying in State could be waiting for more than 30 hours in the line that has the capacity to stretch back 10 miles.
Stewards could close the line early if it gets too long, ITV News understands.
For the first people in the queue, it was worth the wait
Nevertheless, people are turning out in droves for the opportunity to to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s coffin as she lies in state in Westminster Hall ahead of her funeral on Monday.
Doors opened at 5pm on Wednesday, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is running a live queue tracker to pinpoint the end of the line.
At 5.20pm, the tracker showed the queue was around 2.9 miles long, stretching as far as London Bridge.
By 8am the line already stretched between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge.
One local handed out chairs to people who had been waiting hours in the miles-long queue
There will be more than 1,000 volunteers, stewards, marshals and police officers on hand at any one time as people brave the wait on the banks of the Thames.
This includes 779 professional stewards per shift, assisted by 100 civil service volunteer marshals, 40 adult scouts, and 30 members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry charity, as well as Metropolitan Police officers.
There will be a separate accessible route running from the Tate Britain for people less able to wait for a long period of time, with timed entry slots issued for a line along Millbank to the Palace of Westminster.
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The government was so worried about the numbers it sent out lengthy guidance about what can be carried into the hall, bathroom facilities for queuers, and the risk of having to wait through the night.
But among those already waiting, there was a sense that the least they could do was be there for a woman who they feel was always there for them.
Track the queue live here
The overwhelming sentiment among those waiting was a need to pay their respects, with many saying they had never really considered themselves royalists.
Small friendship groups had started to form among those waiting, with people offering around their snacks and keeping an eye on their neighbours’ bags so they could take comfort breaks.
A group of four women, who had all travelled alone, had struck up a conversation as they prepared to weather a rain shower.
Kate Paysen, 58, had flown from Lisbon just to be in London for the lying in state.
Ms Paysen, who grew up in the UK but emigrated in 1998, said: “I always felt that when the Queen died I would come and pay my respects.
“My father was in the Army and I grew up in a royalist household, and I think it’s important to come and be part of history. I think the Queen for me always made me feel proud to be British.”
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Having joined the queue at around 4am to receive her wristband, one well-wisher had initially been debating whether or not to come out of fear that the queue may have been too long.
She said: "I've been on the fence since Monday because I didn't know how long the queue would be, but I think we will now get in within the first hour or hour and a half."
Everyone who wants to pay their respects to the Queen will have to join the queue and receive a special wristband before they head to Westminster Hall. Upon arrival everyone passing through the doors will have to undergo airport style security checks.
Sarah Santangelo, 50, is based in the US but had been back in the UK for a few months.
“I always said that if anything ever happened to the Queen I would fly back, it just happened I was already here when she passed away.”
Ms Santangelo added: “She’s sacrificed her whole life for this country, the least I could do is pay my respects.”
Gina Carver, 60, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: “To give up my day queuing is nothing compared to what she’s done for 70 years – and she does feel like our grandmother.
“She was the face of reason, you always think things are going to be alright if she says it’s alright.”
Helen Redding, 60, from Sidcup, south-east London, said: “When the Queen died I was shocked how much it meant to me.”
She added: “I felt like I had to be here, to be part of history and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to pay my respects.
“I’m really glad I did because it’s a lovely atmosphere here.”
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan says support staff have been deployed as queue wait times could reach 30-hours
Lee Harkness, 51, a clinical psychologist from Lancashire, travelled down on Tuesday night with his daughter Chloe, 11, and his sister Louisa Harkness-Hudson, 55.
Mr Harkness said: “I’m not really a royalist, but having seen the (lying in state) in Edinburgh, it looked like a really nice way to pay my respects to someone who has dedicated themselves to this country.”
Mrs Harkness-Hudson said: “I thought ‘we’ll regret it if we don’t go’ – you only get one chance to do this, so we didn’t want to miss it.”
Chloe, on her first visit to London, said she had come along because she “wanted to witness a part of history”.
Duncan Rasor, who met the Queen while serving in Scotland, wore his military medals and Glengarry headdress as he queued for the lying in state in London.
The 48-year-old served in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, he said: “I spent four months up in Balmoral valley and so I did get to meet the Queen and spend some time with her.
“So, from a personal perspective, I wanted to come and pay my respects for everything that she’s done.”
Former Balmoral Guard Duncan Rasor spoke of how proud he had been to serve the Queen ahead of being able to pay his respects at Westminster Hall
He described spending time with the royal family as an “extraordinary privilege” and added: “Even though they are on holiday up in Balmoral, they are still working, and it just never stops.
“I think that is something which is starting to become more apparent to people is quite how hard Her Majesty has worked for her entire life.”
He served in the regiment between 1997 and 2002 and wore a Northern Ireland medal and a Kosovo medal.
Asked why he decided to wear his medals and Glengarry headdress, he said: “She was our Colonel-in-Chief so, having been part of the regiment, I could have come down without it, but I retired 20 years ago so I’m not a serving soldier, but it is a rare opportunity to put on a headdress and wear medals again and just be proud, I guess."
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