On Friday 16 September at exactly at 9.43 pm we joined the queue to pay our respects to the Queen and 13 hours later we were able to do so. I know there are lots of mixed feelings about this time, but this is a story of my journey. It was a pilgrimage, we did not sit and it was long, hard, and very cold, especially along the river.
We met different people along the way, Mary from Ware, someone from Southampton, and Daniel the train driver. There was an elderly gentleman with a walking frame and his wife. We were all held outside the Tate Modern for over an hour. There was no complaining or grumbling. We all just waited.
We saw the London skyline in different lights – night-time, dawn, and early morning.
The queue was respectful and solemn throughout. That in itself was extraordinary.
The final legs of the journey were the tests of endurance…it’s called the Zig Zag as you enter Westminster Gardens, but I have heard it called the Death Snake, which is more apt as your back has seized by then. Everyone was shuffling, young and old with sore backs. I kept thinking of the elderly gentleman with the frame and tried not to complain.
Then as you finish the Death Snake, everything happens so fast, the security checks, the policemen checking your bags. I suddenly don’t feel ready. You are climbing the steps into Palace where the Queen is resting and it’s beyond anything you will ever see. The quietness is almost heavenly.
While the Hall is bathed in this bright, golden light, I can’t help thinking about how cold the walls look. Everything is a leveler in death.
I take in the Beefeaters, the Foot Guards, and find that I am walking on red carpet. The crown is dazzling…and the coffin seems so small.
Then I am there…so many thoughts flying in my head, and I remember to say Thank You. I bow my head, overcome with emotion. Grief has many triggers.
I spent the rest of the Saturday, processing it all. I can’t believe we did it. And yes I would do it all over again.
On Monday 19 September, it was the final chapter and the day of the funeral. We went to the Mall to pay our last respects to the Queen, as she left Westminster Abbey for her final journey to Windsor. This was a day not about queues but about crowds, where throngs of people gathered. We were a congregation.
The funeral service was broadcast onto the Mall by radio from Westminster Abbey and people shared their phones so we could also watch, as not everyone had phone service. It reminded me of people who said that when they watched the Queen’s coronation, they were huddled around a small tv.
It was all glorious and sad. The crowd sang God Save The King.
It will be a long time before we have a Queen again, Kings are now before us.