The powers at 10 Downing Street needn’t have fretted about the royal family’s decision to have the queen mother lie in state for the four days prior to her Tuesday funeral. According to the Telegraph, the politicos worried that the event might not draw a large enough turnout to keep a steady stream of mourners filing by the coffin.
But come they came. Beginning last Friday, over 100,000 mourners formed lines stretching two to three miles to wait for up to a feet-numbing 12 hours to pay their final respects to the 101-year-old royal, and—as many of the papers note—to be a part of history.
The Telegraph asked:
Why do they do it, come out in such numbers? … Because she was a great lady. Because it seemed right to say goodbye. Because it was something for the kids to remember. Because this is a tourist treat no money could buy. And because, one quote among many, “It’s a piece of our history, innit?”
A Telegraph op-ed described the scene as “far more awe-inspiring than television or newspaper images suggest. It is the most impressive spectacle I have ever seen.” The Guardian put it in less grandiose terms: “The mood of the crowd was markedly different from that after the death of Princess Diana. Instead of an aura of emotion there was one of respect, no one was sobbing. The crowds were mostly middle aged to old, and at times it resembled the people who go to the Ideal Home Exhibition.”
The Independent noted that 30,000 gallons of tea and coffee were handed out to the shivering masses, along with foil blankets and windbreakers to those among them who “had not heeded the police’s advice to come suitably dressed” for an overnight wait. The paper also reported a single incident of queue jumping, quoting an official saying, “[The crowd] pointed out how inappropriate it was, and that person through embarrassment left the crowd. It was a very British way of handling it.”
The queen mum’s funeral will be old-fashioned as the lady herself, with traditional hymns and readings—and no Elton.