Queen Elizabeth II death: Queen’s children surround her coffin in sombre vigil as queue wait to last 24 hours
It was a symbolic moment first enacted in the heart of Edinburgh at St Giles’ Cathedral – and last night, King Charles and his siblings were again united in their grief.
The King, the Princess Royal, Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex stood in silent contemplation from about 7:30pm as they guarded their mother’s coffin in Westminster Hall.
Dubbed the Vigil of the Princes, the quartet, dressed in military uniforms and with their hands clasped in front, surrounded their late mother's coffin.
An exception had been made for Andrew, who is no longer a working royal, to wear his military uniform as a “special mark of respect” for the Queen.
The siblings stood silent, motionless and with their heads bowed.
Other members of the royal family, including the Queen Consort, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence and the Countess of Wessex, along with four of the Queen’s grandchildren and their spouses – Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips – looked on, observing the solemn moment.
Members of the public filed slowly past them.
And after 15 minutes, shrouded in silence, the vigil ended.
The King led his siblings out of Westminster Hall to a round of warm applause from those in the queue. The royal party left in the same order in which they had entered.
The late monarch has been lying in state in London since Wednesday and thousands of mourners have filed past to pay their final respects after queueing for hours.
Tonight the Queen’s grandchildren are going to participate in a vigil at her coffin, and the Duke of Sussex will join his brother the Prince of Wales in wearing uniform.
The number of people wanting to view the Queen’s coffin and say their goodbyes has pushed the waiting time past 24 hours.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) online tracker advised the expected wait time was more than 24 hours, warning of chilly temperatures as people queue from Southwark Park in south-east London to pay their respects to the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall, about five miles away.
Undeterred, a steady stream of people joined the queue yesterday evening, many wearing coats and jumpers.
Tatie Kirst, 38, of Canada Water in south-east London, a project manager who had just joined the queue in Southwark Park, said: “Well, it’s a journey right?
“I think I’m prepared, I brought my good coat, I have a stool if I need to sit, I’m getting food and water, and we’re going to walk the way.
“I think there is always a question, Is it worth it? Can I make it? And hopefully, yes.
“I wanted to be part of this, pay my respect to the Queen.”
The queue was earlier paused for 40 minutes when it reached capacity, and when it reopened mourners were urged by the DCMS not to join the line until at least 4pm.
Officials stopped people joining the queue entirely at around 11:35am at the entrance to Southwark Park due to overwhelming demand.
Downing Street said the queue system was going to plan.
James Birchall, 33, a trainee physiotherapist who travelled from Liverpool to pay his respects, was also queuing.
He said: “Now I just feel normal and unemotional, but as I get closer and closer [to the Queen’s coffin] I think I’ll start to become more emotional and maybe five minutes before I go in I’ll probably, even though I don’t look like the type of person, I’ll probably start crying.
“I absolutely loved the Queen, she was great, she had been there all my life, I have always had respect for her. She was great for our country, always did her duty right until she died.”
Former England footballer David Beckham waited 13 hours to pay his respects, after joining the queue just after 2am, and he appeared to wipe away a tear before nodding his head towards the Queen’s coffin
Before entering the hall, he said: “There should always be respect paid to our Queen in the country in this time of mourning.
“But speaking as an ex-football player and an ex-England captain I know what it meant for us to step out on that field to represent our Queen and our country and the Three Lions.”
Figures from the London Ambulance Service (LAS) showed 435 members of the public had been treated along the route of the queue to see the Queen lying in state and surrounding areas over the past two days.
Some 291 people along the route of the queue and nearby in London were given medical assistance on Wednesday, with 17 needing hospital treatment, the LAS said.
A further 144 people were treated on Thursday, with 25 people being taken to hospital.
The LAS said the majority of incidents attended were faints and collapses, resulting in head injuries.
Earlier the Prince of Wales told a serviceman his grandmother would be “looking down” on her funeral service and be interested in all the detail.
William and his wife Kate, the Princess of Wales, visited Army Training Centre Pirbright in Surrey on Friday, where they spoke to Commonwealth troops taking part in the funeral procession on Monday.
The prince was heard speaking to troops from the New Zealand Defence Force about how the Queen would be keeping an eye on Monday’s proceedings.
Greg Gifford, 31, said: “One of the key things I took away from what he said was how the Queen will definitely be looking down on the whole funeral service.
“He said she would be interested in the detail of the soldiers, how the drill is carried out, its precision, our dress, things like that.”
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