A queue to join the Queue formed after entry to the lying-in-state line was paused
There was mass confusion among the crowds in the lying-in-state queue on Friday as groups of mourners continued to file into line in Southwark Park, despite the Government warning it had been officially paused.
Entry has since reopened but crowds are warned that the wait time to get into Westminster Hall has now risen to 24 hours.
Despite Government messages on Friday afternoon that no new members of the public would be able to join the queue for six hours as it had “reached capacity”, mourners said they would be prepared to queue for the queue for their chance to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II.
Colleen Smitherman, 57, who had travelled to London from Whistable, Kent, said she heard the news that the queue had been paused for hours, but still came to join in – even if it was a queue for the queue.
“People are going to want to queue somewhere, it’s our one-off chance to give thanks,” she said.
Hours earlier, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the queue at Southwark Park had closed, because the numbers filing along the River Thames and into Westminster Hall had reached capacity.
Messages were put out on the department’s Twitter page and were sounded out in Tube stations across central London.
At 12pm, officials said the gates had been closed at the park, but only half an hour later, they opened them again at a different entrance, letting a large group through.
witnessed young and old filing through with their coats and backpacks full of food and drink, getting ready for a long wait. Throughout the afternoon, there has been a steady stream of mourners entering the queue from all sides of the park.
Among those alarmed that the queue was paused – before joining anyway – were Michele Monteith, 54, and Emma McMillan, 33, who arrived from Eastbourne on Friday morning.
They laid flowers at Green Park before heading towards Southwark Park where they heard the news.
“We were thinking, oh! gosh!, we should have come yesterday, we’ve missed our chance,” Ms Monteith said.
Not knowing exactly what to do, they chanced upon a volunteer who told them to chance their luck and come to the park anyway.
“We arrived and we’re in the queue and that’s great,” she said.
Ms McMillan said she couldn’t quite manage a 36 hour queue – but an expected 14 hours was just about doable.
Further along the queue, just before it left Southwark Park, Helen Cownty, 38, had already been waiting for over two-and-a-half hours.
She said mourners were stopping and starting throughout the queue, moving in fits and starts.
Ms Cownty and her mother, Linda, had not heard the messages about the queue being paused, but said they were prepared for queue arrangements to change at the last minute in any case.
“I guess we just winged it, I think everybody here just winged it,” she said.
For her, like most of those in the queue, spirits were high despite the long wait. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, she explained, before adding: “Ask us when we’re at the end of the queue and I might say something different.”
Jane Dennis travelled to London from Sittingbourne, Kent, in the early hours of Friday morning, and joined the queue at 2.30am.
“I just absolutely love the Queen,” she said, 10 hours later and still queueing. “I grew up with her, I remember my nan used to have a portrait over the mantlepiece.
“I just thought she was so special, amazing, and so good for the country. It just makes me so proud to be British.”
Bringing only a Mars bar to get her through the night, the Barclays bank co-ordinator, said the comraderie of the queue had been incredible.
People have been so eager to chat and exchange stories about why they have decided to come and see the Queen, she said.
Researchers at the University of Essex have surveyed those in the queue and found that “to feel part of a wider group” was a major reason people gave for joining the line, alongside being part of history, and saying thank you to the Queen.
Ms Dennis said the spirit of those around her – and the complimentary tea and coffee – helped her get through the long wait, though she said it hadn’t been that bad.
On Wednesday, she travelled with her mum, Diane, to watch the Queen’s coffin be moved from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, which she described as “really moving”.
“I love all the pomp and ceremony, it was absolutely amazing. Just such a lovely atmosphere,” she said.