David Beckham, Sharon Osbourne and “Good Morning Britain” anchor Susanna Reid are among the millions of thousands of mourners who have spent hours queuing for a chance to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II while she lies in state ahead of her funeral on Sept. 19.
Beckham told Sky News — who caught up with him while he was still waiting in line — that he had joined the queue at 2 am on Friday morning. “Well, we all want to celebrate our Queen, Her Majesty,” he told the camera crew as the line inched forward. Later that day, at around 3 pm, the BBC’s livestream of the lying in state showed Beckham, dressed in a black suit and tie, finally entering Westminster Hall. As the soccer star approached the Queen’s coffin, which is sat on a catafalque draped in the Royal Standard flag and the Imperial State Crown, he stopped and bent his head, pausing for a moment before following the others mourners out.
Osbourne was spotted in the queue on Wednesday evening by ITV News. “I love the Queen and I came over for this because I’m a royalist and I love the royal family,” she told the interviewer.
Reid, who used to co-host “GMB” with Piers Morgan before he stormed out of the job over comments regarding the Queen’s granddaughter-in-law, Meghan Markle, said on Thursday she had spent just over seven hours waiting in line with her mother and a friend. On Twitter she advised others who were planning to brave the queue to “wear the comfiest shoes you own” and “don’t carry too much in a bag.” Responding to someone who asked whether her mother had the chance to sit down while the queue inched forward, Reid replied: “A number of times on the public benches along the route. It is a challenge standing for that long.”
Beckham, Osbourne and Reid were widely praised for choosing to join the public queue rather than using the VIP line, which “This Morning” anchors Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield were caught doing on the BBC’s live feed.
The first people to join the queue arrived almost 48 hours before the lying in state started. At the time, the Queen’s body wasn’t even in London but still in Scotland, where she died last week at the age of 96. On Tuesday, she was flown from Edinburgh to London, spending one final night in Buckingham Palace before her coffin was transported to Westminster Hall (part of the UK’s Houses of Parliament) in an elaborate ceremonial procession on Wednesday afternoon, in which her family, including King Charles III and Princes William and Harry, all took part.
The Queen’s body will now lie in state, surrounded by soldiers in traditional uniforms, until Monday morning, when it will be taken to Westminster Abbey for her funeral. On Friday evening, the Queen’s family appeared in Westminster Hall to pay their respects with her children King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward standing vigil around her coffin. Her grandchildren, including Princes William and Harry, are set to do the same on Saturday.
On Monday afternoon, the Queen will make her final journey to Windsor Castle, where she will be buried alongside her late husband Prince Philip, who died last April.
Hundreds of thousands of mourners have now joined the queue in a bid to pay their final respects to the Queen. Such is the volume of people that the queue has become a tourist attraction in its own right as it snakes along the banks of the River Thames, spawning memesnicknames (“QEII,” a play on the name of a now-retired transatlantic cruise ship) and even a livetracker on YouTube set up by the UK’s Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), which warns those who are considering joining how long it is and how long they may be waiting.
On Friday morning, as the queue hit five miles in length, it was temporarily closed, although a second queue merely sprang up behind it in Southwark Park. By Friday afternoon, that queue was also closed, with newcomers reportedly lining up in a third queue outside the park gates.
“I only really decided this morning that I was definitely going to do it,” Juliet from Leicestershire, who had joined the second queue, told variety on Friday around lunchtime. “There’s a few of us who have all gone and joined together at the train station, we joined a convoy and ended up in a queue for the queue.”
When asked what had prompted her to spend hours in line to see the Queen’s coffin, Juliet replied: “I wanted to pay my respects. I just thought about how much she’d given of her life to everybody else, I just really felt I wanted to do it. And having lost my mum myself, it resonated with me and I really wanted to be here.”
Juliet also admitted she is a fan of Netflix series “The Crown,” the depiction of Queen Elizabeth II’s life as a monarch. “It really taught me a lot,” she said. “And especially over this last week, there’s been references to momentous occasions in the Queen’s life, and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I saw that. Oh no, it was on “The Crown,” it wasn’t real life.’ But I knew about it because of the ‘The Crown.’”
Not everyone in the queue is a fan of the Peter Morgan series, however. Friends Jan, Sam and Lesley queued for 13.5 hours before finally making it into Westminster Hall around 2:30 pm on Friday. They described the experience as “amazing,” saying the atmosphere inside was “very silent, very respectful.”
“She’s all we’ve ever known,” Jan told variety as the trio exited the Hall with tears still in their eyes. “We loved her and she’s been incredible for our country.”
“She’s been a great role model to all women,” said Lesley.
When asked if they had watched “The Crown,” two of the trio shook their heads. “You have to remember that not all of it is fact,” said Jan. “It’s their [the writers’] interpretation of it, so you have to just keep that in mind really when you’re watching it.”
The group were much more enthusiastic about Her Majesty’s sketch with Paddington Bear, which she secretly recorded for her Platinum Jubilee just two months ago. “Absolutely amazing,” said Jan.
“It still makes me want to cry now when I think about it,” Lesley agreed.
On the other side of the river, Cat Webster, who was queuing with friends from West Yorkshire, also praised the sketch. “Absolutely wonderful, I absolutely loved it and I loved the way the Queen embraced it and acted along with it,” Webster told variety. “It really showed her wonderful sense of humor.”
When asked why she had felt compelled to brave the queue and attend the lying-in-state, Webster replied: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And for everything the Queen has done for us and our country and the world, it’s the least I can do and I want to pay my respects to the Queen. I absolutely loved the Queen.”