King Charles leads procession of queen’s coffin through London

Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin is delivered to Westminster Hall where she will remain for four full days until her funeral.

King Charles during a procession from Buckingham Palace [File Photo: Daniel Leal/Pool via Reuters]
King Charles III and Prince William walk behind the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II in London, the United Kingdom [Daniel Leal/Pool via Reuters]

King Charles III has led a procession of the coffin of his mother Queen Elizabeth II through London, before hundreds of thousands of people pay their final respects.

Six days after her death in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth’s body was borne on a horse-drawn gun carriage on Wednesday from her Buckingham Palace home for the final time to Westminster Hall, where she will remain for four full days until her funeral on Monday.

The procession of the queen’s coffin began at precisely 2:22pm (13:22 GMT). Big Ben tolled and artillery guns fired at one-minute intervals from Hyde Park.

The king, his heir Prince William and younger son Prince Harry walked in silence behind the gun carriage as it wound through the capital’s streets in a 38-minute journey to the cavernous 12th-century hall in the Westminster parliament.

Prince William and Harry
Prince William and Prince Harry march behind Queen Elizabeth’s coffin [Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

Paying respect

The public, some of whom began queueing on Monday, will begin filing past the coffin from 5pm (16:00 GMT), with mourners already warned they will face an endurance test to wait in lines that could tail back 8km (5 miles).

Hundreds of people were already queueing on early Wednesday morning, with those at the front having spent the night equipped with blankets, camping seats, tents and rain ponchos.

As day broke, a steady stream of mourners joined the back of the queue along the River Thames under the watchful eye of an army of stewards in fluorescent jackets.

Strict rules and airport-style security measures have been put in place, with “far more” people expected than the 200,000 who filed past the coffin of the queen’s mother when she died in 2002, according to Prime Minister Liz Truss’s spokesman.

The government has advised people to wear “suitable clothing” and to bring portable battery packs to keep their mobile phones charged – an indication that some people will need to wait overnight for a glimpse of the casket.

Hotel rooms in the British capital are increasingly hard to find, with even budget rooms going for 300 pounds ($350) per night, while transport bosses and police are under pressure to keep the city moving and safe in exceptional circumstances.

“It’s a massive challenge for the Metropolitan Police and for me personally, but we have been preparing for many, many years,” the newly appointed head of the London police force, Mark Rowley, told Sky News on Tuesday.

Queen Elizabeth's coffin
Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin borne on a King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery carriage [Daniel Leal/Pool via Reuters]

UK tour

The body of the late 96-year-old queen, who died “peacefully” at her Balmoral estate in Scotland last Thursday, was flown to London aboard a Royal Air Force plane on Tuesday evening from the Scottish capital Edinburgh.

It was then driven to Buckingham Palace, past crowds of motorists who stopped their vehicles at the side of the road to catch a glimpse of the coffin.

Her arrival was greeted with the flashes of thousands of mobile phone camera lights, under the illuminated columns of the landmark palace.

“Welcome Home Ma’am,” The Sun tabloid said on Wednesday on its front page. The Times ran with the headline “Home to Rest” and the Daily Mail “Home to her Family”.

The procession on Wednesday will mirror a similar ceremony in Edinburgh on Monday, when her coffin was driven through the hushed streets of the city to lie “at rest” at St Giles’ Cathedral.

There, about 33,000 people filed past the coffin overnight to Tuesday afternoon, the Scottish government said.

“Scotland has now bid our Queen of Scots a sad, but fond farewell. We will not see her like again,” said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

After Scotland and England, Charles continued his tour of the four nations of the United Kingdom on Tuesday by visiting Northern Ireland for the first time as king. He will visit Wales on Friday.

Buckingham Palace
The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II is carried on a horse-drawn gun carriage from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery [Ian West/Pool via Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies