King Charles, his sons Princes William and Harry and other senior members of the royal family joined the solemn procession that received Queen Elizabeth’s coffin as the late monarch made its final journey from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
Huge crowds gathered in central London to see the Queen led from the palace to Parliament as artillery guns fired a salute and Big Ben, the latest in a series of sharp ceremony as the nation mourns the queen who died last week aged 96 after seven decades on the throne.
Lying on a carriage, draped with the royal standard and with the Imperial State Crown placed on a cushion next to a wreath of flowers, Elizabeth’s coffin was carried in a slow, somber procession from her home in London to Westminster Hall. He will lie there for four days.
They were walking right behind Charles and his siblings, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
The group following included Charles’ sons Princes William and Harry, a poignant scene reminiscent of when they, as boys 25 years ago, followed their mother Princess Diana’s coffin as it was carried in a similar procession through central London.
It was also symbolic manifestation of unity as William, 40, now Prince of Wales, and Harry, 37, Duke of Sussex, are said to be barely on speaking terms after a bitter row over the past couple of years.
“It was very touching to see the family. It was a powerful show of unity,” said Jenny Frame, 54, who waited more than four hours to see the procession.
Paul Wiltshire, 65, commented: “I don’t think we’ll see anything like this or the Queen like this again. The end of an era.”
A military band playing funeral marches and soldiers in ceremonial scarlet uniforms, some with shiny silver breastplates and helmets, accompanied the carriage, drawn by the Royal Army and Royal Horse Artillery, as it moved slowly through central London, where many roads were closed to traffic.
Guns were fired every minute in Hyde Park, and the famous bell of Parliament, Big Ben, also struck at 60-second intervals. The crowd stood in hushed silence as they watched the procession, but then broke into spontaneous applause as it passed. Some threw flowers.
Other senior members of the royal family, including Charles’ wife Camilanow queen consort, kate, wife of william, now princess of wales, and harry’s wife, megan, traveled by car.
When the procession reached Westminster Hall, a medieval building dating back to 1097 and the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster, which houses the British Parliament, the coffin was carried by soldiers of the Grenadier Guards and placed on a hearse surrounded by candles. .
This was followed by a short service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Church of England, and watched by senior politicians. The royal family left quietly, Harry and Meghan holding hands.
The four corners of the hearse will be permanently guarded by soldiers in full dress uniform.
Just after 5 p.m., the public began to stream past the coffin, some in tears, many with their heads bowed. There will be a constant stream of mourners, 24 hours a day, during the four days of lying in state, which lasts until morning funeral September 19.
“We lost someone special,” said Kenneth Taylor, 72, who stayed overnight in a tent to be among the first in line. He said that the lump came to his throat as he looked at the queen who was lying in the guest room. “Her service to this country has been truly steadfast and unwavering.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said Elizabeth had three key roles in her life: head of family, head of nation and head of state. Wednesday was the moment when the coffin was handed over from the family to the state.
People started in line late Tuesday, sleeping outside in the rain to be one of the first to pass the coffin, and there was already a line of over 2 miles.
Some of those gathered were there to represent aging parents, others to witness history and many to thank the woman who, having ascended the throne in 1952, was still holding official government meetings just two days before her of death
The government has warned that the queue could eventually stretch for 10 miles (16 kilometres) along the south bank of the River Thames, winding past landmarks such as the giant London Eye and the revamped Globe Shakespeare theatre.
Culture Minister Michelle Donnellan said some people may have to queue for up to 30 hours to pass the coffin before the funeral on Monday.
“She’s an icon of icons,” said a grieving Chris Imofidon. “I should at least make it through this campsite out of respect.”
Addressing people queuing, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell quipped: “We cherish two great British traditions: the love of the Queen and the love of the queue.”
Elizabeth’s coffin was flown to London late on Tuesday from Scotland, where it had been since her death at her Scottish summer holiday home at Balmoral Castle, with tens of thousands of people lining the 14-mile (22-km) route in heavy rain.
In Scotland, around 33,000 people filed past the coffin during the 24 hours it lay in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, but the memorial in London is a much bigger event.
Around 750,000 mourners are expected to march through Westminster Hall to pay their last respects.
A senior palace official described Wednesday’s spicy celebration as relatively small and private. A full-scale funeral procession on the day of her funeral is likely to be one of the largest in the country.
Family members, presidents and other world leaders are expected to attend, but no one from some countries such as Russia, Afghanistan and Syria will be invited.
US President Joe Biden, who said he would be there, spoke with the new king earlier on Wednesday, the White House said, and “expressed the great admiration the American people have for the queen.”