Tens of thousands of people queued for hours in London on Thursday to pay their last respects to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on the first full day of her coffin lying in state.
Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who died a week ago aged 96 after 70 years on the throne, is at rest in Westminster Hall ahead of Monday’s state funeral at neighbouring Westminster Abbey.
After lining up for two days, the first public mourners were allowed into the vast medieval hall on Wednesday afternoon, following the coffin’s ceremonial procession through the packed streets of central London from Buckingham Palace.
Since then, a steady stream of people has continued to file past the queen’s coffin, with thousands waiting through the night for their chance to say farewell to the country’s figurehead.
Her coffin, mounted on a platform, is draped in the Royal Standard flag and bearing the Imperial State Crown plus her ceremonial orb and sceptre, with tall, flickering candles standing at each corner.
“It was very beautiful, moving,” said Sarah Mellor, noting it was also very quiet inside the cavernous hall, the oldest part of Britain’s centuries-old parliament.
“There is the sense of history here,” added the visibly moved Mellor, who had queued for seven hours.
The sombre atmosphere was completed with guards in ceremonial uniforms posted around the podium in a constant vigil.
One fainted overnight, in a sign of the toll standing vigils can take.
All Britain’s national newspapers carried poignant pictures of the historic scene on their covers.
“Nation’s turn to say farewell,” was the Daily Telegraph newspaper’s headline on its front page.
Mourners marked their moment in front of the coffin in various ways, from bows or curtsies to the sign of the cross or by simply removing their hats.
Some wiped away tears with tissues. Others brought infants in pushchairs. Old soldiers stopped and gave one last salute to their former commander-in-chief.
The coffin had been taken to parliament from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday to the strains of a military band playing funeral marches.
King Charles III led the royal family in procession behind a horse-drawn gun carriage bearing the coffin.
Parliament’s Big Ben bell tolled out each minute as the coffin passed in front of hushed crowds lining the route, ahead of the lying-in-state beginning at 5:00pm (16:00 GMT).
By late morning on Thursday, the queue had grown to 5.6 kilometres (3.5 miles) along the south bank of the Thames river, with people set to wait through the day to see the late sovereign.
Organisers have prepared up to 16km (10 miles) of queueing infrastructure, with expectations hundreds of thousands will participate, in particular during the weekend.
After nearly 110 hours lying-in-state and 10 full days of national mourning, the commemorations for the queen will culminate with her state funeral on Monday.