Members of the U.K.’s legal community were among mourners queuing overnight to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall in London.
The Queen’s lying in state began on Wednesday and will continue for four days. We spoke to those in the legal industry who braved the four-mile queue, with one lawyer describing it as “one of the most moving experiences of my life”.
Last Thursday, senior figures in the U.K. legal industry paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth II following her death at the age of 96.
Lloyd Rees, knowledge lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Her Majesty The Queen gave a lifetime of service to our country. I felt I must visit Buckingham Palace and pay my respects to the Queen. So on Saturday I decided to leave a bouquet of sunflowers at Green Park as she had brought so much joy and happiness to so many people, for so long.
Also late on Wednesday night I decided to queue and pay my respects to Her Majesty the Queen at her Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall. I queued all night from 10.30pm on Wednesday until 06.30am on Thursday morning. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, seeing her coffin adorned with the Royal Standard and the Imperial State Crown. The giant hall was silent. As the candlelight caught the jewels in the crown they glistened brightly. It was incredibly emotional.
There was a positive camaraderie in the queue. I had joined it alone but I met a lovely couple Ian and Elizabeth who got me through the tougher moments of the night. It was special when all three of us got to the Palace of Westminster.
Francine Wolfisz, senior external communications executive at RPC
Queen Elizabeth II has been such a constant in our lives and a true model of dignity and selfless devotion to others that my husband and I didn’t hesitate in wanting to pay our respects, even if it meant enduring an impossibly long queue stretching miles and lasting long into the night – and early hours of the next day. We took our children, aged 7 and 11 as well, because we wanted them to be a part of this historic moment.
We began at London Bridge just after 8pm [on Wednesday] and made swift progress to Blackfriars, the Southbank and the London Eye. By 10pm, we were within a mile of Westminster Hall, but it then took another two hours to cross Lambeth Bridge before finally entering the surrounds of Westminster Palace. There we found the real queue, a snaking line of chicanes that moved much less rapidly. There was a brief pause while the hall was closed for dignitaries arriving to pay their respects, another a short while later after one of the guards fell unwell and a third at 2am for cleaning. But everyone was marvellous – there was a real camaraderie among the queuers and at moments people broke into song and got the crowd clapping and cheering. We all kept one another’s spirits up as we endured the wait.
At 4.55am, nearly nine hours after we first arrived, we finally made our way through to the hall. All the clamour and bustle of the outside came to an abrupt halt and there was instead just silence as people took in this awe-inspiring scene. It was quite something to see Her Majesty’s crown jewels glistening atop her coffin and to have the opportunity to make a final curtsey to the Queen, a farewell to the beloved grandmother of our nation.
Kerry Jack, co-founder and CEO of Black Letter Communications, providing PR for the legal sector
Anyone who knows me well knows of my long-held admiration and respect for the late HM Queen Elizabeth II. Despite her advancing years, her death came like a bolt from the blue. Like many, I think I was lulled into a false sense of security by seeing photos of her still at work forming a new government just 48-hours before her death.
When I heard the news, I knew immediately that I would need to pay my respects at Westminster Hall. The Queen has quite simply been a constant for this nation for over 70 years, it’s difficult to imagine life without her. My long-suffering husband sadly doesn’t share the love and respect I have for the senior Royal Family, but he duly committed to accompanying me on my pilgrimage to say farewell to the greatest public servant this country has ever known.
Prior to attending there were many attempts to try second guess the best time to go – my husband favouring a midnight Uber into town and queuing through the night; while I felt Wednesday would be the quietest day, being far enough away from the weekend and predicting many people would probably see how it was all panning out before making a decision to attend.
I think I made the right call. All in all, our wait was 7.5 hours. We joined the queue at the Golden Hind at 4pm and the route along the Thames was fairly swift.
Although once we were in the gardens next to the hall I was lulled into a false sense of security, mistakenly thinking that we were within touching distance. Despite the theme-park style queues, there were plenty of times where we didn’t move all. We were over three hours in that area alone.
Yet the crowd around us remained in remarkably good spirits. People were genuinely looking out for each other and of course, sharing stories about the Queen. One of my queue buddies told me that her parents who lived in Hong Kong had queued for seven hours at the Embassy just to lay flowers.
We finally entered the hall at 11:25pm. I didn’t have the wave of emotion I expected, instead the whole experience was quite surreal. However, I did have an overwhelming sense that I had done my duty as a proud British citizen, to say goodbye and thank you for a job well done ma’am.
God save the King.