With sunbeams filtering through the stained glass windows of Westminster Hall, I entered the iconic venue that has served as the backdrop for some of the world’s most historic events to pay my respects to Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Despite the chattering crowds outside lining the streets of London pushing wait times past the record-breaking 14-hour mark, inside you could hear a pin drop.
Mourners paying their respects were mostly dressed in black, and many took the opportunity during their three-minute visit to bow to the Queen’s coffin – a gesture of respect passed down for generations.
Other visitors proudly wore their own military honors.
Although I have never considered myself a royalist, I could not deny the sense of gratitude and emotion that the Queen’s coffin evoked in me.
Given the location of numerous momentous events over the centuries – including former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s State Lie in 1965, Nelson Mandela’s speech in 1996 and Queen Elizabeth’s State Lie in 2002 – the hall served as a poignant one Remembering the history that solidified Britain’s legacy.
After watching the crowd move from the south-facing entrance, past the coffin and over to the north-facing exit, I was overwhelmed with overwhelming emotion.
“When I saw it [the Queen’s coffin]I couldn’t help but burst into tears,” Sharon Martin told the Post. “I still can’t believe our precious ruler is no longer with us.”
Martin wasn’t the only one moved to tears. Four dedicated stewards are stationed at each corner of the hall to hand out tissues to the distraught mourners, with supplies running out about every three minutes.
But the 53-year-old royalist, who hails from Essex, England, was one of the lucky few who managed to witness the changing of the guard at Her Majesty’s coffin.
“I was so happy to see that. I love that about us Brits, we stick to tradition. There is a reason for this and we should continue to honor it. Just like.”
Veteran Keith Walsh, who waited just under 10 hours to see Her Majesty’s coffin, said he felt a deep sense of honor while waiting in line for most of Friday.
“I came here with my Northern Ireland medal,” Walsh, 57, told The Post. “I served in the army for five years and spent two years in Northern Ireland in the 80s.”
“For veterans, we knew her primarily as a boss. She was our boss – supreme commander of the armed forces. So there’s more than a nationality tie,” Walsh said.
“It is the service we offered her, we took an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, her heirs and successors and for most veterans that oath will last until the day you die. It’s more than respect — there’s that bond that we’ve served for them.”
Her Majesty’s coffin was brought into Westminster Hall on Wednesday, with the procession led by her eldest son, King Charles III.
The historic building was built by Wilhelm II over 900 years ago and was the largest hall in Europe at the time.
The landmark opened its doors to the general public on Wednesday and will remain open 24 hours each day before closing at 6:30am on September 19 – the day of Her Majesty’s state funeral.
Every day since the queues began, royal fans have ignored warnings of endless waits as they patiently made their way closer to Westminster Hall in a queue that snaked around the heart of the capital.
“I’ll wait as long as it takes — I’m not going anywhere,” said Sarah Slater, 67, who is from Canterbury, England.
“I made a day out of it. I knew what I was getting myself into and I’m perfectly happy with it. The wait was really difficult and I still have three hours to go. But guess what? I’ll wait and wait and wait. It’s the least I could do.”
For many, being able to spend minutes with the coffin means hours of discomfort in cold temperatures and rain. Hundreds of mourners who were in pain from the wait or who had other medical problems have sought medical attention.
“We’ve been very busy today,” a paramedic at Saint John’s ambulance told The Post on Friday. “I think a lot of people have had a lot of discomfort, aches and pains from queuing for so long. We’ve had quite a few people feeling powerless and actually passed out today.”
But despite the discouraging lines, every mourner I spoke to said they would do it again for a chance to pay their respects to the late Queen.
“The Queen was such a strong character, she proved to me as a young girl that anything is possible,” Kam Kaur, 37, told The Post.
“She took on such a huge responsibility at an incredibly young age. But we have never heard her lament, never seen her in any distress. And yet she did it all with such elegance and grace,” added Kaur, who waited in line for eight hours to see Her Majesty’s coffin.
“She was a true inspiration. There will be no other queen in my life, but I feel incredibly blessed to know that she was my queen for 37 years of my life.”
https://nypost.com/2022/09/16/seeing-queen-elizabeths-coffin-at-westminster-hall/ See Queen Elizabeth’s coffin in Westminster Hall