The Queen today began her last public duty – to lie in state for the nation until Monday – after she completed her final and saddest journey to Westminster Hall from Buckingham Palace accompanied by the bereft Royal Family.
King Charles, his three siblings and his sons Prince William and Prince Harry, marched behind her coffin in the September sunshine to Parliament before they handed Her Majesty over to her subjects.
From 5pm mourners will be able to file past the coffin to pay their respects to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch with an estimated 1million people expected to queue for up to 30 hours to see her before the state funeral on Monday. The line snaking through central London is already approaching three miles long – close to London Bridge.
During an extraordinary 38 minute march down a packed Mall and down to Parliament Square, Her Majesty’s children and grandchildren, led by King Charles III, delivered her to Westminster where she is laid to rest before her funeral next Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the route – many of their in tears – united in their grief.
The Queen’s coffin entered Westminster Hall as the choir of Westminster Abbey and the choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, sang Psalm 139. The Archbishop of Canterbury then read the opening prayer, which the King led the royals in reciting. The family stood silently for the short service that the late monarch had put together with the Church of England before she died aged 96.
Cries of ‘God save the King’ could be heard as the King and the Queen Consort left Westminster Hall as Big Ben rang out at 3.30pm. Royal couples left the building side by side, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex holding hands and the Princess of Wales rubbing her husband’s arm reassuringly.
At 2.22pm today Her Majesty was carried down The Mall on a gun carriage – a tradition dating back to the death of her great-grandmother Queen Victoria in 1901 – as her children, grandchildren and other senior royals marched behind in time to a funeral march.
The Queen arrived at Westminster Hall at 3pm – where she was placed on a catafalque – a raised platform, with her crown, orb and sceptre on top. The monarch will lie in state there for four days and five nights.
William and Harry again set aside their feud and stood next to each other as they accompanied their beloved grandmother to Parliament. Their wives travelled separately in cars. During the service, the senior royals stood in formation facing the coffin on its purple-covered catafalque, which was flanked with a tall, yellow flickering candle at each corner of the wide scarlet platform.
The King and Queen Consort stood together a meter or so apart, with Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence behind them, then the Duke of York alone, and in the next row the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Behind them were the Prince and Princess of Wales, with the Duke of Sussex behind William, and the Duchess of Sussex directly behind Kate. The Cross of Westminster was placed at the head of the coffin.
When the Queen arrived, Charles, William and Anne saluted. Harry and Prince Andrew – barred from wearing military uniform – bowed their head instead. The Princess of Wales, who looked visibly emotional, was wearing the Diamond and Pearl Leaf Brooch which belonged to the Queen.
Meghan and Harry left holding hands while the Princess of Wales rubbed her husband’s arm reassuringly as walked from Westminster Hall.