Lines Stretch for Miles as Queen Elizabeth Lies in State
Borne on a gun carriage and accompanied by the boom of artillery cannons and the tolling of Big Ben’s bell, the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II was transported on Wednesday (August 14) from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, where the queen’s body will lie in state until her funeral on Monday.
The first members of the public were admitted to Westminster Hall at 5 p.m local time (12 p.m. Eastern) to pay their respects. Many had waited for hours in a line that was stretching for miles around London.
Earlier, at 2:22 p.m. (9:22 a.m. Eastern), the coffin, draped in the imperial standard and bearing the imperial state crown on a velvet pillow, rolled slowly out of the front gate of Buckingham Palace. That precise time was chosen because it allowed the procession to reach the doors of Westminster Hall 3 p.m., when it was met by the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
King Charles III, in full dress uniform and carrying a field marshal’s baton, walked behind the coffin, joined by his sister, Princess Anne, and their two brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. His elder son and heir, Prince William, newly named as the Prince of Wales, walked behind him, next to his brother, Prince Harry.
The procession, one of the most solemn of the public rituals marking the death of the British monarch, was meant to have less fanfare than other ceremonies. Even the skies above the route were cleared of commercial aircraft, with Heathrow Airport disrupting the schedules of flights to eliminate the distant roar of planes.
The cortege passed by the most familiar symbols of royal London, from Buckingham Palace to the wide, tree-lined vista of the Mall, then past government institutions on Whitehall and Downing Street, before arriving at Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Parliamentary estate.
With the queen departing the palace for the last time, her 38-minute journey symbolized the transfer of responsibility for the sovereign’s body from the royal family, which has been mourning a beloved matriarch, to the British nation, which will now mourn a revered head of state.
There were familiar emblems of the queen’s military status: Her gun carriage was guarded by the Household Mounted Cavalry Regiment, followed by bands of Grenadiers and Scots guards. Members of the queen’s household, including her private secretary and keeper of the privy purse, walked in front of the coffin.
In walking behind the coffin, the members of the royal family took up the same positions they had during a procession on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on Monday. Their choice of dress reflected their sometimes turbulent personal circumstances.
Prince Andrew, who served in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War, wore a morning suit rather than a uniform, reflecting his banishment from royal duties because of his association with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sexual predator.
Prince Harry, who withdrew from his royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020 with his American-born wife, Meghan, also wore a morning suit. Andrew will wear his uniform for a final salute to his mother later in the week. A spokesman for Harry said he was content to wear civilian dress.
The other female members of the family — Queen Camilla; Catherine, the Princess of Wales; and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex — rode to Westminster Hall in advance.
Once inside the centuries-old hall, the coffin was placed on a catafalque, and Archbishop Welby and other clerics conducted a brief service. The hall was then readied for round-the-clock public viewing, a ritual that was expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. The police estimate that the wait could last for hours and that the line could eventually stretch for up to 10 miles.
Westminster Hall, which sits in the shadow of Big Ben, is one of the most hallowed places in British public life. Erected by King William II in 1097, it is where King Richard I had his coronation banquet in 1189, Thomas More was tried for treason in 1535 and Winston Churchill’s body lay in state in 1965.