The Queen’s eight grandchildren held a silent vigil by her coffin

LONDON (AFP) – All eight grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II stood in silent vigil by her coffin on Saturday, capping another huge day of thousands of people coming to pay their respects. Mourners thronged in line across London, enduring the city’s coldest night in months and waiting for up to 16 hours.

Authorities have warned that more cold weather is expected on Saturday evening. “Tonight’s forecast is cold. It is recommended to wear warm clothes,” the ministry in charge of the line tweeted.

As US President Joe Biden and other world leaders and dignitaries flew to London ahead of the Queen’s state funeral on Monday, there was a wave of people wanting to say goodbye. It poured into Westminster Hall in Parliament for another Saturday. This is where the state queen’s coffin lies, draped in her royal clinic and covered in a diamond-encrusted crown.

The numbers of mourners have been rising steadily since the public was first admitted on Wednesday, with a queue creeping around Southwark Park and stretching for at least 5 miles (8 kilometres).

In honor of their patience, King Charles III and his eldest son Prince William made an unannounced visit on Saturday to greet people waiting to place orders next to Elizabeth’s coffin, shake hands and thank mourners in queue near Lambeth Bridge.

Subsequently, all the Queen’s grandchildren stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, Charles’s sons, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, visiting Tindall and Peter Phillips. Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and two children of Prince Edward – Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

William, now heir to the throne, stood with his head bowed at the head of the coffin and Harry at his feet. Both princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. Mourners continued past in silence.

Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British Army officer, wore civilian clothes earlier in the week when the Queen’s coffin left Buckingham Palace because he is no longer a working member of the royal family. He and his wife Megan resigned from their royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. However, the King requested that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms at the vigil at Westminster Hall.

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

“We, like so many, thought you would be here forever. And we all miss you dearly. You were our mothers, our guide, our loving hand on our backs guiding us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish these lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.

The people queuing to see the Queen were of all ages and from all walks of life. Many bowed before the ark or made the sign of the cross. Several veterans, whose shining medals were shining, gave a sharp salute. Some people cried. Others blew kisses. Many hugged each other as they left, proud to spend hours in line to pay tribute, even if it only lasted a few moments.

Overnight, volunteers distributed blankets and cups of tea to people in line as temperatures dropped to 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite the weather, mourners described the warmth of a shared experience.

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

People had many reasons to come, from affection for the Queen to wanting to be a part of a historical moment. Simon Hopkins, who traveled from his home in central England, likened it to a “pilgrimage”.

“(It’s) a little weird,” he said, “because that kind of goes against my darling.” “I was kind of drawn to it.”

The vigil on Saturday was followed by one of the vigils on Friday in which the Queen’s four sons – Charles participated.Ann, Andrew and Edward – they stood in the coffin.

Edward said the royal family was “overwhelmed by the wave of emotion that swept us and the huge number of people who did their best to express their love, admiration and respect (for our dear mother)”.

On Saturday, the new king welcomed the new prime ministers, rulers of realms, and military leaders.

The Metropolitan Police arrested a man Friday night while on sight for a public order violation. Parliamentary authorities said someone got off the waiting list and tried to approach the coffin.

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

The lie in the country continues until early Monday morning, when the Queen’s coffin will be taken to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, the conclusion of 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. Elizabeth, 96, died at her home in Balmoral, Scotland on September 8 after 70 years on the throne..

After Monday prayers at the Abbey, the late Queen’s coffin will be carried through the historic heart of London on a horse-drawn rifle carriage. She will then be taken to Windsor, where the Queen will be buried alongside her late husband Prince Philip, who died last year.

Late Saturday, the government revealed details of where the public can view daily services and processions.

In addition to a number of viewing areas along the route, mourners will be able to watch on screens set up in Hyde Park, near Buckingham Palace. There will also be screening sites in many towns and cities across the UK, and around 125 cinemas will open for funeral screenings.

Hundreds of soldiers from the British Army, Air Force and Navy held an early morning rehearsal on Saturday for the final march. As troops lined the scenic path to Windsor Castle, drums reverberated in the air as bands marched past the chairs.

London police say the funeral will be the largest single policing event the force has ever undertaken, surpassing even the 2012 Summer Olympics and June’s Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years of the Queen’s reign.

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Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of Queen Elizabeth II at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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