LONDON: Prince William has told how walking behind his grandmother’s coffin brought back challenging memories, alluding to the death of his mother, as mourners from all walks of life queued for hours on Thursday (Sep 15) to file past the late monarch’s coffin.
The new heir to the throne told well-wishers that the military procession had “brought back a few memories”, a nod to the day 25 years ago when, as a boy of 15, he had followed the casket of his mother Princess Diana to her funeral.
The death of Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has prompted an outpouring of emotion across the country. Tens of thousands have queued for hours, including through the night, to file past her coffin and pay their respects to the 96-year-old.
Presidents, prime ministers and royalty from around the world will gather on Monday for the state funeral for Elizabeth, queen for 70 years whose global stature was almost without equal.
The official in charge of the huge ceremonial event said on Thursday that he hoped the funeral would unite people from across the globe.
Ending 10 days of national mourning, Elizabeth will finally be laid to rest at a chapel at her Windsor Castle home alongside her husband of 73 years Prince Philip, who died last year.
The body of the late queen is now lying in state in London’s Westminster Hall.
“The queen held a unique and timeless position in all our lives,” said the Earl Marshal, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, England’s most senior peer who is in charge of state occasions. “It is our aim and belief that the state funeral and events of the next few days will unite people across the globe.”
As he spoke, the queue to see the queen’s coffin stretched more than 7.24km along the south bank of the River Thames, past landmarks including Tower Bridge, crossing Lambeth Bridge as it neared Westminster Hall.
The estimated queuing time is at least eight hours.
Officials expect about 750,000 people to view the coffin before the lying in state ends at 6.30am on Monday.
On Wednesday William walked in a solemn procession with his younger brother Harry and father, King Charles, as the coffin was taken from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster.
It was a scene reminiscent of when, William and Harry, then aged 12, followed Diana’s casket when it was taken on a similar procession through central London.
“The walk yesterday was challenging … brought back a few memories,” William said as he and his wife Kate spoke to well-wishers and viewed the sea of floral tributes outside the royal Sandringham estate.
Charles, who has returned to his Highgrove home in southwest England after a hectic schedule of events since Elizabeth’s death last Thursday, and his three siblings, Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward, will hold a silent vigil alongside the catafalque on Friday evening.
Some of those queuing to see the coffin had travelled from abroad, dropping off bags at nearby hotels to join those moving slowly through Westminster Hall. There were former soldiers with military medals and babies being carried by their parents. Many wiped away tears.