Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during her lying in state that will start on Wednesday evening and continue around the clock until early on the day of her funeral.
Britain’s culture ministry said members of the public would be able to file past the coffin for 24 hours a day from 5pm local time (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday September 14 until 6.30am (05:30 GMT) on September 19.
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“Those wishing to attend will be required to queue for many hours, possibly overnight,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said in its guidelines, stressing that there would be little opportunity for people to sit down as the queue would be moving continuously.
“Large crowds are expected and people are encouraged to check ahead, plan accordingly and be prepared for long wait times.”
Britain’s Times newspaper said officials were expecting “unprecedented” numbers of people and that the queue could stretch as long as eight kilometres (five miles). Some 1,500 soldiers will be deployed to help the thousands of civilian stewards deal with the crowds.
The government is preparing for the “very real possibility” that London will become “full” for the first time, it added, saying railway companies might have to tell passengers not to try and travel to the city.
Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, who died aged 96 on September 8, will be buried in a state funeral attended by leaders from around the world next Monday.
Tens of thousands have already laid flowers at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, while crowds gathered in Scotland on Sunday to watch her funeral cortege make its six-hour journey from Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh.
More are expected to line the city streets on Monday as the flag-draped coffin is taken to the 12th century St Giles Cathedral with members of the royal family, including Charles III, walking behind.
King Charles will mount a 24-hour vigil as the coffin remains at the cathedral “to enable people of Scotland to pay their last respects”, a palace official said.
On Tuesday, the queen’s daughter Princess Anne will accompany the coffin on a Royal Air Force flight to the British capital before it is driven to Buckingham Palace.
The next day there will be a ceremonial procession through central London, after which the lying in state at Westminster Hall, the oldest of the buildings that make up parliament, is due to begin.
The closed coffin will be placed on a raised platform called a catafalque in Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament.
“There are likely to be delays on public transport and road closures around the area,” the ministry warned.
Visitors will have to pass through airport-style security, turning off their phones beforehand.
They will be allowed to bring only one small bag with one zipper opening, and no food and drinks, flowers or other tributes into the building.
“Please respect the dignity of this event and behave appropriately. You should remain silent while inside the Palace of Westminster,” the advice said.