Sat, 09 Dec 2023

Queen Elizabeth II's eight grandchildren mounted a vigil around her coffin on Saturday, their heads bowed in silence as a line of mourners streamed past the late monarch's lying-in-state.

The two sons of King Charles III, attired in military uniforms, stood in silence at a 15-minute vigil in the vast Westminster Hall where the coffin has been lying since Wednesday, draped in the Royal Standard and with the bejeweled Imperial State Crown on top.

Princes William and Harry were joined by their six cousins, including Princess Beatrice and Eugenie who earlier paid tribute to Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

"You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world," said the sisters, daughters of Prince Andrew. "You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever. For now dear grannie, all we want to say is thank you."

Earlier Saturday, Charles and his heir, William, made a surprise visit to meet people standing in line to pay their respects to the late monarch.

To cheers of "hip, hip, hurrah" and shouts of "God save the King", Charles walked alongside part of the queue waiting to see the queen's lying-in-state, asking those lining up how long they had been there and whether they were warm enough.

Prince William also chatted to the crowds wanting to honour the queen who died aged 96 last Thursday.

'Worth every minute'

Tens of thousands of people have already filed past the coffin in a steady, solemn stream, queuing for hours through the dark and cold to pay their respects to Britain's longest-reigning monarch - a testimony to the affection in which she was held.

On Saturday morning, the culture department said it would pause entry to the queue if demand became too high, adding at 1am. (0000 GMT): "Please do not travel."

The death of the queen on September 8 at her summer estate in the Scottish highlands has sparked an outpouring of emotion across the country and 10 days of highly choreographed events.

Having laid at rest in the Scottish capital for 24 hours the coffin was flown south to London, where tens of thousands of people crowded on to a normally busy road in driving rain to observe the flag-draped casket being driven to Buckingham Palace.

On Friday night King Charles joined his three siblings - Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward in a silent vigil at the coffin while their eight children, including William and Harry, will form their own ceremonial guard later on Saturday.

Like many, Sarah Boniface, a 60-year-old estate agent, was teary and emotional as she left the great Westminster Hall on Friday night after standing for 14 hours, having seen the new king hold the vigil as she passed by the coffin.

"It's been worth every minute. Every minute," she said, visibly holding back tears. "I'm so lucky to have paid my respects to the queen and seen our new king."

Indebted to the queen

For retiree Hasmukh Vara, 62, his decision to stand for 13 hours to observe the lying-in-state reflected his desire to say thank you to the late monarch - and Britain - after he moved to the country from Kenya in the 1970s.

Emerging from the vast, brightly lit hall into the cool darkness of Friday night by the River Thames, he described himself as feeling "very, very high".

"We came as refugees to this country," he told Reuters. "For my entire lifetime, I am indebted to her because she gave us a home. It's something we can never, ever forget. It's a big deal to me and my family."

The queen's children have described being overwhelmed by the reaction to their mother's death.

The state funeral on Monday, to be attended by nearly 100 presidents and heads of government including those from the United States, France, Australia, Japan, Jamaica and Canada, is likely to be one of the biggest ceremonial events ever held in Britain.

On Friday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern filed past the coffin - one of the first leaders to arrive. The premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Jason Kenney, described the gathering in central London as "this huge, diverse gathering of people from around the world".

Police said one man had been arrested following a disturbance near the coffin on Friday night, held for an offence under the Public Order Act.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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