Queen funeral: Why travelling to Hyde Park for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral felt less like a journey and more of a pilgrimage

For many it was less a journey and more of a pilgrimage to say farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.

I had travelled from North London and, with the actual funeral itself not taking place near Buckingham Palace, I expected a big turnout, but nothing compared to the scenes when her passing was first announced.

As my Tube train filled up stop by stop, I soon realised how wrong I was, with mourners lining the carriages then forming our own procession to leave Green Park station.

Exiting the station was akin to arriving near a football ground on match day, with supporters of the Queen dressed up with flags, all in a queue to get out.

Members of the public flocked to Hyde Park to say farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.

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Instead of songs though there was silence, with the families, couples and friends who had gathered to mourn strangely quiet as they exited.

Exiting the station, which like many in London was exit only from 10am to 8pm, I realised my plan to watch the funeral near Buckingham Palace would not go ahead, with the viewing area already full.

This was in spite of Westminster, St James’s Park and Hyde Park Corner Tube stations being completely closed for the day.

Despite my early arrival, others had made the trip sooner, so we were funnelled towards Hyde Park by more police officers than I’ve ever seen.

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So we walked and walked and walked, traipsing through the little streets of London, which were empty save for the police, signs and people trying to sell Union Jack flags and flowers for a fiver.

These are areas of London so unaffordable the streets are lined with Bentleys, Ferraris and other supercars. Yet in this moment, the streets were for everyone.

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This meandering then gave way to an even bigger queue, with well wishers guided around the park to an array of entrances to keep numbers manageable.

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Queuing may be a British institution, but it’s boring, time consuming and usually the fault of one person struggling with a check-out.

But in this there was no anger, nobody was muttering or pushing. It was just sombre smiles and groups in absolutely no rush.

The funeral itself had a schedule, the projections on the big screens were moments I would have thought visitors wanted to see live.

Instead it seemed to be less about witnessing each speech and recital, and instead being part of the moment, witnessing history and sharing it with others.

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This was all in a queue that reminded me of Glastonbury festival, with the crucial difference being this would not have Glastonbury at the end of it.

That’s not to say it didn’t have features of it, with some of the same food trucks greeting guests on arrival.

This was not a set-up for people to come for an hour. It was a grand day out, with falafel, pizza and fish and chips all available.

If that wasn’t enough, there were also numerous ice cream vans, prompting the bizarre image of children running around with cones while adults cried with bowed heads behind them.

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The festival set-up was completed with porta-loos, adding to the idea this was a grand day out for people to enjoy and contemplate until dark.

It was an odd atmosphere, with people marking the occasion in different ways.

Some stood up throughout the ceremony, others sat down with picnic blankets and thermos flasks.

And the running theme throughout was most simply did not talk about their experiences on camera, instead wanting to mark the Queen’s passing with their full attention.

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It was like they left their homes to pay tribute, but had little to say about it, with the event being about her, not them.

Those that did speak to journalists remained shy, but quietly respectful.

One man told me he’d come from Coventry because “it just felt like the right thing to do and she always did that”, which felt like the most profound thing you could hear from someone in a bucket hat.

And what a bucket hat it was, covered in Union Jacks, which adorned more clothing than could have been imagined.

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I saw men in Union Jack suits, dogs in St George cravats, and a plethora of men who simply had the flag, Winston Churchill or Her Majesty tattooed on them.

But they were far from the majority, with the variety of outfits showing the range of people who felt close to the late monarch.

There were veterans dressed in finery, young women in crop tops, serious-looking mourners all in black, and a not unsubstantial amount of people in vintage football shirts.

These are not members of the royal family. There was no dress code, but people still took the time to pick out outfits they felt showed respect to Elizabeth.

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Another visitor told me they were not a devout monarchist themselves, but knew what it would mean to their father they had attended.

Even in death, Elizabeth II’s legacy helps bind families together, inspiring a sense of loyalty that defies logic.

Watching the ceremony on the big screen, I was struck by how few people were talking, and just how many had come.

This was in the backdrop of Tube cancellations, stations being closed, and knowing how busy the capital would be.

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This is being televised on every channel basically all over the world, but they still left their homes to share the moment with their fellow countrymen.

At the close of the funeral, the Last Post played out over the big speakers, prompting loud and universal applause.

Being among them, hearing that feeling and closeness to something beyond themselves, it was hard not to feel a part of it as well.

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