All eight of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren hold silent vigil beside her coffin

All eight of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren hold silent vigil beside her coffin

All eight of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren stood in silent vigil by her coffin on Saturday, the culmination of another enormous day in which tens of thousands paid their respects. Many stood in line for up to 16 hours, experiencing the coldest night London has had in months.

A flood of people wishing to bid farewell poured into Westminster Hall, where the queen’s coffin is lying in state, draped in the Royal Standard and crowned with a crown of diamonds. Since the public was permitted for the first time on Wednesday, the number of visitors has gradually increased, with a wait that wraps around Southwark Park and runs at least 5 kilometres.

King Charles III and his oldest son Prince William made a surprise visit to the line of mourners waiting to go past the queen’s coffin on Saturday, shaking hands and praising them for their patience.

Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren hold a vigil around her coffin, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s orb and sceptre at the Palace of Westminster in London on Sept. 17, 2022, ahead of her funeral on Monday. AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Later, the queen’s grandchildren stood around her casket. Prince William and Prince Harry, sons of Charles, were joined by Zara Tindall and Peter Philips, children of Princess Anne; Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, daughters of Prince Andrew; and Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, children of Prince Edward.

William, the heir to the throne, stood at the head of the coffin with his head lowered, while Harry stood at the foot. Both princes, who are veterans of the military, wore uniforms.

As the grandchildren stood vigil, mourners continued to file past in silence.

Britain’s Prince William, Prince of Wales, leads his brother Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, followed by their cousins Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York; Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn; and Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips before mounting a vigil around the coffin of their grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, in Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster in London on Sept. 17, 2022, ahead of her funeral on Monday.  IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British army officer, wore civilian clothes during the procession of the queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace because he is no longer a working member of the royal family. He and his wife Meghan quit royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. The king, however, requested that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms at the Westminster Hall vigil.

Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “beloved grannie.”

“We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, mounts a vigil around the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II at the Palace of Westminster in London on Sept. 17, 2022. IAN VOGLER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

People queuing to see the queen have been of all ages and come from all walks of life. Many bowed before the coffin or made a sign of the cross. Several veterans, their medals shining in the spotlights, offered sharp salutes. Some people wept. Others blew kisses. Many hugged one another as they stepped away, proud to have spent hours in line to offer a tribute, even if it lasted only a few moments.

Overnight, volunteers distributed blankets and cups of tea to people in line as temperatures fell to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the weather, mourners described the warmth of a shared experience.

“It was cold overnight, but we had wonderful companions, met new friends. The camaraderie was wonderful,” Chris Harman of London said. “It was worth it. I would do it again and again and again. I would walk to the end of the earth for my queen.”

People had many reasons for coming, from affection for the queen to a desire to be part of a historic moment. Simon Hopkins, who traveled from his home in central England, likened it to “a pilgrimage.”

“(It) is a bit strange, because that kind of goes against my grain,” he said. “I’ve been kind of drawn into it.”

The public kept silently streaming into Westminster Hall even as the queen’s four children — Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — stood vigil Friday night around the flag-draped coffin for 15 minutes. A baby’s cry was the only sound.

Before the vigil, Edward said the royal family was “overwhelmed by the tide of emotion that has engulfed us and the sheer number of people who have gone out of their way to express their own love, admiration and respect (for) our dear mama.”

Authorities on Saturday closed a separate line for people with disabilities, saying all spaces available have been allocated.

The Metropolitan Police arrested a man Friday night for a suspected public order offense. Parliamentary authorities said someone got out of the queue and tried to approach the coffin.

Tracey Holland told Sky News that her 7-year-old niece Darcy Holland was pushed out of the way by a man who tried to “run up to the coffin, lift up the standard and try to do I don’t know what.” She said police detained the man in “two seconds.”

The lying in state continues until early Monday morning, when the queen’s coffin will be borne to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, the finale of 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. Elizabeth, 96, died at her Balmoral Estate in Scotland on Sept. 8 after 70 years on the throne.

President Biden and his wife Jill Biden flew to the U.K. on Sunday, one of hundreds of heads of state, royals and political leaders from around the world coming to London to attend the funeral. Charles was holding audiences Saturday with incoming prime ministers, governor generals of the realms and military leaders.

After the service Monday at the abbey, the late queen’s coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London on a horse-drawn gun carriage. It will then be taken in a hearse to Windsor, where the queen will be interred alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.

Hundreds of troops from the British army, air force and navy held an early morning rehearsal Saturday for the final procession. As troops lined the picturesque path leading to Windsor Castle, the thumping of drums echoed as marching bands walked ahead of a hearse.

London police say the funeral will be the largest single policing event the force has ever handled, surpassing even the 2012 Summer Olympics and the Platinum Jubilee in June celebrating the queen’s 70-year reign.

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