Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral will take place on Monday at Westminster Abbey, London. But unlike any other royal family VIP event, all dignitaries and visiting heads of state must wait for us plebs and normies to first see the Queen as part of her reclining in the state, where hundreds of thousands of people – including David Beckham doing Peaky Blinders cosplay – standing in line for hours to pay her respects.
So what was it like to queue to end all queues, now hailed by some as the “most British thing ever”, presumably ranked alongside other paragons of Britishness such as Paddington Bear, colonialism and go “oi oi look when you see someone you know walk into a pub? Who were the people who volunteered to join a line that stretched all the way to Bermondsey, just to have a few quiet minutes chatting with the Queen and hopefully not get caught on the official live stream picking their noses or yawning? How did they feel when it spat them out on the other side of the abbey, blinking, in the harsh daylight? Were all those hours of waiting worth it? worth?
To find out, VICE photographer Aiyush Pachnanda went downstairs to meet some of the people queuing to see the Queen and caught up with them as they exited Westminster Abbey.
Hazeem Arif, 23, Leamington Spa
In the past: I have already made very good friends with the people before and after me. We’ve been chatting and getting to know each other for the past three to four hours, so it’s been a nice experience waiting here – time has gone by pretty fast, if I’m honest.
My favorite memory is when she came to visit my town in the Midlands – I was maybe 12 and she said hello to me. I know that the Queen has a very deep-seated belief in the Christian religion. As an imam in training and as a Muslim, I also have a very deep-rooted faith. With that in mind, I think it’s really important to be here to represent my family and those who can’t make it.
Na: As soon as we entered, you could hear a pin drop. Everything fell silent. I felt very moved – I didn’t want to leave. It will take you 20 minutes to walk around it; they make you run into it and make you pay your respects in any way you want. Some people bowed, some bowed, some were praying and once you’re done you walk out – it’s a blessing to have seen her.
Total waiting time: 7 hours
Joseph Arujo, 18, California
Back in the day: I’m from LA, I queued for about four hours to see her. I have mixed feelings towards the Royal Family for their involvement in colonialism – especially the involvement with many indigenous countries – but I think this is a historic day to witness.
The queue itself goes way beyond Blackfriars – it’s so crazy to think so many people are here to witness this moment in history.
Na: I realized one thing I felt when I saw her, [which is] how fragile life is. You used to see her as a creature almost taller than humans – and seeing her coffin three feet away really gives you a new perspective on life.
It was really sad. All the guards in the uniform protecting the Queen – it’s hard to describe because it’s something I’ve never felt, a whole new world of royalty that we get to experience for a brief moment.
My feelings [on the royals] have stayed the same, but I really feel for them and the family… Whatever you think about them, you can tell it’s a sad moment in history.
Chris Newbury, 29, London
Back in the day: I felt like I had to be here… It’s such a momentous occasion. The grandmother of the country is as good as dead. Unfortunately, people in my family couldn’t be here, so I wanted to be there for them… It’s a way of saying thank you for doing so much for us.
I think she can mean so many things. If you’re a feminist, she can be a feminist… She meant so much to everyone. For me, it’s about her duty to this country and the service she has rendered to all of us.
After: [As I walked in there was] just a sudden gloom – a core of calm. People were crying. I bowed and said thank you, thank you for your service to myself and all my family.
To be in the UK – as I now live abroad – and to be here and see everything from our greatest monarch to the beginnings of our new king really makes me proud of this country and shows how old it is .
Waiting time: 3 hours
Jo Andales, 30, London
Back in the day: I’m originally from the Philippines – I’ve lived here for seven years now. I really wanted to be there today. I have been awarded citizenship this year and so I owe the Queen a tribute for swearing not only to the nation but also to the Queen that I am a responsible citizen of the United Kingdom.
After: All in all, I started at 7:00 AM and arrived around 2:00 PM. Everything was well organized – it was quiet and very solemn. People were there for a reason. I spent about five minutes inside and it was all worth it. I actually regret that I never saw her in person [alive], I saw her on TV… Some people think she is immortal and I took that for granted. Otherwise I’m glad I took the time to see her.
Total waiting time: 7 hours
Kenneth Uy, 34, London
Before: I met [the Queen once before in 2016, when I first came to London. Sadly, it’s a different feeling as now seeing her again in a coffin – it’s my last goodbye. For me, it’s very emotional and moving [being in the queue] – there are many dedicated and passionate people gathered here. I know that the Queen was somehow a part of everyone’s life here.
Na: I just came out of the hall. It was worth the wait as it is a unique opportunity to witness this. I felt very sad as all the moments I have seen the queen [in] flooded back to me – the things she has done not only for Britain, but for the world. At the same time, it has given me a sense of life, because I know she can finally rest. I’d love to do it again, 100 percent.
Total waiting time: 9 hours
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