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Home World News Washington Post World News They were the last in the epic line to see Queen Elizabeth...

They were the last in the epic line to see Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin

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LONDON — For Christina Heerey, the last person in the mile-long line to see Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin, seeing the Queen laid out in state was so important that she did it twice.

Heerey, who works for the Royal Air Force, waited in line on Sunday and finally entered Westminster Palace at 1:15 am on Monday to see the Queen’s coffin.

And then she did it again.

“It went really, really fast, so I thought I’d try and see if I can go around again, just to save the moment more,” she said Monday just before 7 a.m. after the viewing ended.

Why is the world so fascinated by Queen Elizabeth II?

Her two rides through the line took 14 hours, but she said it was worth it.

“The queue was great; both times i went there they were great people there. And all the people who helped, they made it today, they were all very excited and trying to keep everyone going by saying it’s not much further, it’s not much further. They were very good,” she said.

Queen Elizabeth II’s casket was set up for the public in Westminster Hall for just over four days during what is known as a lay-up period. Tens of thousands of people waited in line, sometimes nearly 24 hours, to pay their respects to the sovereign ahead of her state funeral on Monday.

Affectionately called “The Queue,” the line became a fascination for the subject both at home and abroad, with a dedicated government tracker and parody of social media accounts. Celebrities, including football star David Beckham, joined the queue, while King Charles III and Prince William stopped by unexpectedly on Sunday to greet benefactors.

The British like queues. The Queen’s death brought one for eternity.

At one point, the line got so long that authorities had to shut it down temporarily.

Late Sunday, the British Government’s Department of Culture announced that the queue was at end capacity. Sky News captured the moment the last person got a wristband to stand in line as disappointed mourners were turned away.

Heerey, who said she met the Queen a few times through her work in the Air Force, described her as a very special person.

“She was very inspiring as a woman, she was very inspiring as a world leader, mother, grandmother,” she said. “She has a side that the public doesn’t always see. From everything I’ve seen lately, she’s such a witty person, she’s a great lady.”

In the queue, strangers have become friends. Sima Mansouri, 55, was born in Iran, lived in the US for 20 years and is now a Londoner. She spent the night walking with Heerey and was the last but one to see the Queen’s coffin.

When she finally entered the hall, where it is very quiet, she said she bowed and didn’t want to leave, even when officials inside let people in.

“I just wanted to hold on, I kept turning and looking back because we won’t see her again,” she said. “It will be hard not to see her, on the news or in the papers, with her beautiful colors and smile and beautiful blue eyes.”

It was just after 6:30 am and she had been up all night, but she had no intention of going home any time soon. She was looking for a good place to attend the funeral procession. “I’m still going. I don’t stop until the last second, she didn’t stop.”

Catherine Read, a 50-year-old historian, stood in line all night with her 15-year-old daughter Angelica. Read said there were ups and downs in the queue. At one point they stopped moving for an hour and “we almost got stuck on the bridge”, but on the plus side they made new friends, played various games to pass the time and volunteers gave them blankets, tea and coffee.

When they arrived at Westminster Hall after 6am, “the whole atmosphere changed, it’s very quiet and very quiet,” Angelica recalls.

Read described the scene with “the candles and the light and the guards standing in beautiful uniforms … it could have been a scene from 150 years ago, it was completely timeless and special, it was so beautifully done.”

‘What did the queen mean to me? She combined a semi-mystical role that crowns British society with admirable personal qualities. A really happy mix of function and responsibility, with a sense of duty and history. Spectacle without ego. These things don’t necessarily go together, but luckily for us with her, they did.”

The Reads were an extension of Ameen Ali, 33, who works in the civil service. He said at first that he wasn’t sure if he would come, but that “there was a very big feeling of missing something”. When the government queue follower said the wait times were only seven hours, “I put on my coat, grabbed my bag and ran. It felt like the right thing to do and I’m very glad I made that choice.”

“We didn’t know we would be the very last. It is a surreal experience to watch the barriers being removed behind us as we walked down the hall. We feel very lucky to be there.”

Annabelle Timsit contributed to this report.





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