Queen Elizabeth II death: Shades of 1952 as London lays-in-wait for Monday's state funeral

Some 304,000 people queued to see the coffin of George VI as it lay-in-state in Westminster Hall in 1952, with estimates the number to see his daughter, Elizabeth II, in the same building could rise to three times that.

Despite their reigns spanning different centuries and their deaths coming 70 years apart, public interest in paying respect to the UK monarch following their death seems anything but diminished.

Yesterday afternoon, the queue to see the Queen’s coffin was paused at 11:35am for 40 minutes, with the public warned they faced a 14-hour wait to enter Westminster Hall. The queue had reached five miles long by this point, a mile longer than that for George VI.

By 5pm, the queue extended from Westminster back into Bermondsey, with the wait time extended to 24 hours. Fresh estimates suggested around one million people will have paid their respects to the Queen by the end of the period of lying-in-state on Monday.

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Writer Damon Smith described his ten-hour wait to see the Queen yesterday as a “defiant act of remembrance” that left him tearful. His aching body would be soothed with a bath of Epsom salts once home. His lingering sadness and appreciation would be harder to treat, he said.

Back in 1952, one Londoner shared his thoughts on why he waited 12 hours in wintry conditions to see the King lay in Westminster Hall.

"Well it’s the King, ain’t it? Wouldn’t do it for anyone else, mind you,” the mourner said.

The funeral procession of King George VI in London on February 15, 1952. - The coffin of George VI was led in procession from Westminster to Paddington station. From there, he was transported by train to Windsor, to rest in his final resting place, the Royal Chapel of the Castle. The procession travels the six-and-a-half-mile journey through the streets of London in over three hours. The silent people, massed on the sidewalks, pay a last homage to their king. (Photo by - / Sport and General Press Agency Limited / AFP) (Photo by -/Sport and General Press Agency L/AFP via Getty Images)

While tourists may count for a portion of the 2022 ‘Great Queue’ and ease of travel draws in large numbers from around the country and beyond, the numbers of those wishing to view Elizabeth II coffin has far exceeded expectations.

In 1952, the wait for the King’s coffin gave way to packed London streets as the funeral procession got underway, with the Daily Telegraph then reporting two million people lined the capital streets on February 15 for a glimpse of the elaborate cortege.

Interest in the state funeral was reportedly down when compared to the public show for George V, partly due to his son’s funeral procession being shown on television, the first broadcast of its kind. Today, YouTube and Twitter are sharing updates on the mourning period.

A view of the coffin of King George VI (1895 - 1952) as it passed through Piccadilly on its way to Paddington Station en route for Windsor. (Photo by Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images)

On Monday, Elizabeth II’s coffin will be transported from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey on the state gun carriage, which also transported her father.

The procession for George VI headed to Paddington Station for the Royal Train to Windsor. A service was held at St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle before the king was interred in the royal vault.

On Monday, more than 2,000 people will attend Elizabeth II’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey. A procession will then begin to Wellington Arch, with King Charles leading members of the royal family on foot behind the gun carriage.

The Queen’s coffin will then be transferred to the state hearse and travel by road to Windsor. The committal service, attended by 800 people, will be held at St George’s Chapel.

Guards are changed as members of the public 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 Hall - where her father George VI also lay - ahead of her funeral on Monday. PIC: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Later that evening her family will attend a private interment service, where the Queen will be buried alongside her father at King George VI memorial chapel. The body of her late husband, Prince Philip, will also be moved to join her there.

Members of the public in the queue at 6am on Friday on The Queen's Walk by Tower Bridge as they wait to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state ahead of her funeral on Monday. PIC: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire.
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