What It’s Like To Wait In A 5-Mile Line To Mourn The Queen

For 24 hours a day, people grieving Queen Elizabeth II have been waiting in a line averaging almost 5 miles long to pay their respects.

Ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral Monday, mourners have been lining up for miles in London to pay their respects in person. The monarch’s lying-in-state at the Palace of Westminster began 5 p.m. local time Wednesday, and the raised catafalque is on public viewing for 24 hours a day until 6:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 19, a few hours before the funeral is set to begin.

A truly massive number of people have been patiently waiting for their turn.

“If you wish to attend the Lying-in-State in person, please note that there will be a queue, which is expected to be very long. You will need to stand for many hours, possibly overnight, with very little opportunity to sit down as the queue will be continuously moving,” the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport warned on its website.

On Friday, the UK government temporarily closed the queue for about six hours, and it officially closed down for being at capacity by 10:30 p.m. local time Sunday. The queue ends at London’s Southwark Park and snakes along the South Bank of the River Thames, with people passing landmarks including the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Tate Modern. For those waiting, there’s even an official queue map and live queue tracker on YouTube, posted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The line has consistently averaged almost 5 miles long, with wait times commonly exceeding 24 hours and the temperature dropping to 41 degrees Fahrenheit early Saturday morning. The arduous conditions of the queue have of course led to many cheeky memes.

King Charles III, along with William, Prince of Wales, surprised the grieving public Saturday when they popped out to thank mourners in line, with crowds cheering, “Hip, hip, hooray.” Queen-related souvenirs have been sold, and many people have been arriving dressed in British-related costumes and Union Jack garb. Volunteers, food vendors (including ice cream), bag storage, and first aid have been available along the route, with more than 500 portable toilets. With the line continuously moving, once someone reaches the Palace of Westminster, they’re met with airport-style security to briefly pay their respects inside.

A large crowd of people standing in line

Members of the public queue past Tower Bridge to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 16, 2022.

The man holds the painting over his head with the palace gates behind him

A painter holds a painting of Queen Elizabeth II outside the Palace of Westminster on Sept. 15, 2022.

People, including children, grab the King's hands

King Charles III meets members of the public in the queue along the South Bank on Sept. 17, 2022.

Prince William holds on to a Paddington Bear doll as he meets members of the public in the queue on Sept. 17, 2022.

A close-up of wristbands being distributed

People put on wristbands that indicate their place in line on Sept. 15, 2022.

Sign says "Lying in state queue wait time from this point 14+ hours"

A sign in Southwark Park informs people in the queue of their wait time on Sept. 16, 2022.

Man wearing a hat and Union Jack sunglasses waits in a crowd

Royal fan Joseph Afrane wears Union Jack–themed glasses while standing in the queue on Sept. 15, 2022.

The London Eye observation wheel in the background

Members of the public queue on the South Bank near the London Eye on Sept. 16, 2022.

Focus on an older man in a hat, suit, and tie waiting in line

Members of the public queue overnight near the River Thames on Sept. 15, 2022.

Signs with a photo of the Queen and "In tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II" text above the crowd

The queue is seen with St. Paul's Cathedral in the background on Sept. 17, 2022.

A woman (left) in line, draped in a Union Jack flag, on Sept. 16, 2022. A man (right) sports a Union Jack blazer on Sept. 15, 2022.

A massive crowd of people in a winding line with gated-off sections

People queue at Southwark Park on Sept. 16, 2022.

Person holding a cellphone wears clothing that includes bedazzled images of the Queen's face

A woman with Queen Elizabeth II– and Union Jack–themed imagery on her clothing stands near the queue on Sept. 15, 2022.

Shadows of people in the queue are reflected on a wall covered with heart drawings and messages

Mourners stand in the queue on Sept. 16, 2022.

Two people standing share a blanket

People queue with blankets overnight in the Victoria Tower Gardens South on Sept. 17, 2022.

A line of people stand outside the Angel tavern

Members of the public queue through Southwark on Sept. 16, 2022.

Close-up of an older man in the queue with many medals

A British army veteran stands in the queue on Sept. 15, 2022.

A man wearing a feathered hat and period collar stands in the queue

Members of the public stand in the queue on Sept. 16, 2022.

People stand outside a tall, brick building

People stand in the queue on Sept. 17, 2022.

Close-up of a woman wearing a miniature Union Jack top hat

Members of the public join the queue on Westminster Bridge on Sept. 14, 2022.

Close-up of smiling girl waving the Royal Banner of England and heraldic flags

Members of the public stand in the queue on Sept. 16, 2022.

Two lines of people stand on steps

People queue inside Westminster Hall on Sept. 16, 2022.

Mugs showing the smiling Queen with "Queen Elizabeth II" on them and the dates 1926–2022

Unofficial merchandise bears the Queen's image on Sept. 17, 2022.

Four women with blankets over their shoulders in the foreground

People in the queue use blankets to stay warm on Sept. 18, 2022.

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