The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The line to see the queen’s coffin is so long authorities had to close it

The decision raised the burning question: Would there be a line to join the line?

People stand in line to attend the visitation for Queen Elizabeth II. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
4 min

LONDON — The line to see Queen Elizabeth II lie in state at Westminster Hall — which Brits have affectionately dubbed “the Queue,” and which has taken on a life of its own in recent days as thousands wait for a glimpse of the monarch’s coffin — grew so long that the government said Friday it would have to temporarily prevent new people from joining it.

“The Queue” — which began forming Monday before the start of the queen’s lying-in-state period — is officially five miles long, though in reality it is longer due to an uncounted section where it zigzags. It extends all the way from Westminster Hall in central London to Southwark Park, a more than 60-acre public park in southeast London, according to a government tracker. Well-wishers have been warned they could face at least a 22-hour wait to reach Westminster Hall.

A Washington Post reporter learns 'queen queue decorum' during 7.5 hours in line

People waited in queues for more than seven hours overnight to see Queen Elizabeth II lie in state at Westminster Hall on Sept. 14. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, Karla Adam/The Washington Post)

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the government agency responsible for managing the queue, warned early Friday that entry to the line at Southwark Park would “be paused if it reaches capacity.”

Less than an hour later, at 9:50 a.m. local time, the department said entry would be paused for at least six hours and warned people not to “attempt to join the queue until it re-opens.”

The news came as a disappointment to the people who had traveled near and far to pay their respects to the queen. On social media, it also raised many questions — chief among them, where the people who wanted to rejoin the queue when it eventually reopened should go. “Is there a queue for #thequeue now?,” some wondered on social media, as others joked that the failure to rejoin the queue would be an affront to their Britishness.

When Southwark Park reopened to queuers nine hours later, around 7 p.m. on Friday, many were relieved — though the government said it could “be paused again if it reaches capacity,” and warned of cold temperatures overnight. One queuer who reportedly waited over 12 hours to see the queen’s coffin Friday attracted particular attention on social media: English football legend David Beckham.

“Today, I think back to my grandparents, because if my grandparents were alive, they would have been here,” Beckham told Channel 4 News from his place in the line Friday afternoon. “It’s nice to be here to celebrate with everybody the life of Her Majesty and the legacy that she’s left.”

Former British soccer star David Beckham queued alongside the tens of thousands of people waiting to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state on Sept. 16. (Video: Reuters)

The Washington Post’s Karla Adam joined the queue for more than seven hours on Wednesday into Thursday. As she wrote, waiting patiently in long lines is a uniquely British skill with its own set of rules — get a wristband with a number and obey that number. Stay in the queue. Do not push or shove. Do not cut.

This line in particular has people willing to brave the cold and the rain because it is a historic national moment: The queen’s lying in state will end at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, the day of the queen’s state funeral.

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Queen Elizabeth II
Laid to rest
Queen Elizabeth II has been buried in her final resting place next to Prince Philip, her husband of more than 70 years, capping an elaborate state funeral, which was invested with all the pomp, circumstance and showmanship that the monarchy, military and state could put on display for a global broadcast audience of millions. Here are some of the most memorable moments in photos and videos.
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The funeral will take place at Westminster Abbey, and then she will be buried at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, bringing a 10-day period of national mourning to an end and ushering in a new era under the reign of her son, King Charles III.

It is set to be a logistical and security challenge for the capital as hundreds of world leaders descend there along with members of the public, who have been given a national holiday to watch the funeral. “I can confirm that this will be the largest single policing event that the Met Police has ever undertaken,” London’s Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Stuart Cundy, said Friday.

Closures for queen’s funeral bring disruption across U.K.

After hours of waiting, people described to The Post's Whitney Leaming what it was like to see Queen Elizabeth II lie in state on Sept. 15. (Video: Alexa Juliana Ard, Whitney Leaming/The Washington Post)

A spokesperson for Kensington Palace said the queen’s grandchildren — including Prince William and Prince Harry — will hold a 15-minute vigil by her coffin Saturday evening. Her children — Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — held their own vigil by her coffin at 7:30 p.m. local time Friday.

Charles and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, were in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, on Friday — the last stop on the king’s tour of the United Kingdom’s “four nations.” The couple attended a service for Queen Elizabeth at Llandaff Cathedral and visited the Welsh Parliament and Cardiff Castle. The king also hosted faith leaders at Buckingham Palace.

The British love queues. The queen’s death brought one for the ages.

Karla Adam contributed to this report.