South Woodford resident Michelle Vanlint pays tribute to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, reflecting on her 12-hour queue to see the late monarch lying in state and marking the end of an era
I am sure we will all remember where we were when we heard the news of the Queen’s death and how we felt. I didn’t expect to be so sad and emotional.
Only a few days later, we found ourselves in Edinburgh, dropping our younger son off at university when we discovered Her Late Majesty was being driven from Balmoral to Holyrood Palace. My husband, son and I joined the incredible number of people lining the road. As the convoy drove along the Royal Mile, the crowds of people cheered as she passed by. We were due to drive back to London the next morning, but as the procession, which included the Queen’s children, was going to pass by again, I felt compelled to delay our departure. The solemnity of the occasion was felt by everyone, and the crowd fell silent as the horse-led procession passed by.
Back in London, the news was full of interviews with people waiting in the queue to see the Queen lying in state. Queen Elizabeth II had kept her promise and devoted her life to serving us, so joining the queue to pay my respects was the least I could do. I arrived at Southwark Park on Friday afternoon and joined the queue immediately. The sun was shining and the queue was moving, albeit slowly. The atmosphere was cheery as people struck up conversations. It took another three hours until we made it to City Hall, where we were given our wristbands. It was then a slow stop-and-start all the way along the South Bank, but seeing all the famous London landmarks flooded in a sea of purple was worthy compensation. It started to get cold and some of my new ‘friends’ did a pizza run to keep us going. The approach to Westminster was rather like the beginning, a long, snaking queue; we were so near yet still had several hours to go. Eventually, we got through security and then heard the queue was going to be closed for cleaning. We couldn’t possibly wait outside the hall for another hour, so we made a dash, and myself and my ‘friends’ made it inside just before the doors closed. It was 3am, 12 hours after I joined the queue.
As we made our way into the hall, there was a loud drum which signified the changing of the guard; this was an unexpected bonus. The very formal ceremony took about 10 minutes with the guards moving in a very mechanical way. The hall was then silent again and we were able to pass by the coffin. I felt honoured and privileged to have been able to witness such an historical event. Women seemed to be in the majority in the queue. Was this perhaps because the Queen was such an outstanding role model for us?
As I was fortunate to have been at both Westminster and Edinburgh, it was evident so many people from around the world were brought together with the utmost respect for the Queen; it wasn’t just the British. It was a surreal experience, one I will never forget.
For more information on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, visit swvg.co.uk/queen