Queen Elizabeth II funeral: Mourners line up outside Westminster Hall – USA TODAY

LONDON – Across the River Thames, over a bridge, around a corner, down some steps, in London’s on-and-off rain, Vanessa Nathakumaran is waiting to see the queen.
She’s hoping to be the very first.
Nathakumaran, from Harrow, in northwest London, appeared on a stretch of walkway south of Lambeth Bridge – directly across from Westminster Hall, where the queen’s body will be lying in state from Wednesday night ahead of her funeral – on Monday.
She is among a small group of members of the public who lined up here to see the queen’s casket more than 48 hours before it’s due to be rested on a raised platform, known as a catafalque, inside Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament. 
Live updates: Queen Elizabeth II’s remains to return to London, King Charles III arrives in Northern Ireland
“My plan was actually to come here on Wednesday morning but I was passing by and I saw all the blocked roads and security guards and I just decided to stay put,” Nathakumaran, 56, said Tuesday as she politely guarded her No. 1 spot in the line.
Around midmorning Tuesday, there were four people behind her.  
Queen Elizabeth II funeral: Your guide to Queen Elizabeth II’s carefully planned funeral events, through Sept. 19
British authorities are preparing for millions of people to travel to central London to pay their respects to the late monarch, who died last week. Her casket will be placed in Westminster Hall until the morning of Sept. 19, the day of her funeral. 
Authorities have cautioned that the line is expected to be long. Plans have been made for it to snake back along the River Thames for up to five miles. 
“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 Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said in a statement, warning the public it could be an uncomfortable wait. 
The beginning of the line is sandwiched between a small coffee shop that overlooks the River Thames and several portable toilets, about half a mile from Westminster Hall.
The Houses of Parliament, over the river, provide a backdrop.  
Security staff keeping on eye on the area said that when the queen’s lying in state begins Wednesday, those in line would be shepherded to Westminster Hall. 
On the ground: This USA TODAY reporter joined a besotted crowd as King Charles was sworn in
Nathakumaran, who works for a financial services company, said that she brought extra clothes and warm blankets, and energy bars if she gets hungry:
“My kids said, ‘mother, are you sure you’re going to make it through the whole time?’ I said, ‘yes, I am determined. I won’t lose my spot.'” 
Nathakumaran, who was raised in Sri Lanka but emigrated to the U.K. in the 1980s to study, said she has been “admiring” the queen since she was 10. Nathakumaran said her enthusiasm for the queen grew after Nathakumaran learned her great uncle was knighted by King George VI. 
Behind Nathakumaran in the line at midday on Tuesday was Grace Gothard, who USA TODAY first encountered in 2018 during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle; a woman from Wales who wanted to be identified only as “Anne”; Delroy Morrison, originally from Jamaica; and another person who did not want to engage with media. 
Three of the first five people in line were from former British colonies: Sri Lanka, Ghana and Jamaica, which proclaimed independence from the British empire in 1948, 1957 and 1962, respectively. The British empire once spanned the globe. Many in Britain’s former empire had a mixed reaction to the queen’s death. 
The British Empire: Queen Elizabeth’s death stirs debate about colonialism, slavery and British racism
Grace Gothard now, and then. She’s No. 2 in the public line for the queen’s lying-in-state, which begins in London on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/8W2gCramOL
When it started to rain, a small gazebo was set up to give mourners a little shelter. 
“Last night was kind of noisy,” said Gothard, from Mitcham, in south London. 
“The buses ran until very late.”
Gothard, originally from Ghana in west Africa, had draped a Union Jack flag around her neck. At times, she carried a small cardboard cutout of the queen, and a jar of marmalade, a reference to the fictional character Paddington Bear, who has a long association with the queen.
Neither Nathakumaran nor Gothard appeared to have a tent or sleeping bag. 
Nor did Morrison, who said he came to the U.K. from Jamaica in 1975. He was 14. 
“It’s important for me to be here to pay my respects,” he said. 
“She made a big sacrifice for us all, she brought people together, tried to cheer us up.”
Morrison, who is 61 and lives in north London, said his health wasn’t “too good,” especially his back and knees. But he was determined not to miss out, which is why he joined the line so early. He said that on Wednesday, he would wear what he called a “traditional African tunic,” a robe that he also wore to his brother’s wedding.
He brought crackers to sustain himself. 
“I just want to say, thank you, ma’am,” he said.
“It’s the last thing I can do for my queen.”
Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.