Mourners hoping to view Queen Elizabeth II’s lying-in-state in London were facing 17-hour-long queues on Saturday evening, as King Charles III and Prince William made a surprise appearance to the thousands of people lining the streets of central London.
Members of the public have been permitted to visit the late monarch’s coffin in Westminster Hall since Wednesday. Thousands have travelled to the British capital from across the country and around the world, with many standing through the night to bid a final farewell.
The queue’s designated route curves alongside the Thames, starting in Southwark Park in the east and passing landmarks such as Tower Bridge and London Bridge before eventually reaching Westminster Hall. It is flanked by hundreds of stewards, including members of the Metropolitan Police and volunteers from St John Ambulance and the Salvation Army.
The King and the Prince of Wales joined well wishers on the Albert Embankment on Saturday afternoon, shaking hands with members of the public and thanking them for their time.
In recent hours, pressure on the queue has eased. On Friday morning, the government had announced that capacity had been reached and entry to the queue would be paused for six hours, resulting in members of the public being turned away.
Downing Street said the temporary pause in allowing people to join the queue was part of contingency plans for the operation.
“What DCMS have done is they’ve temporarily paused the queue for at least six hours after it reached maximum capacity,” a No10 spokesperson said. “That has always been part of our planning and that is to make sure as many people as possible in the queue can enter the Palace of Westminster.”
By Friday evening, the DCMS said queueing had reopened, but warned of long waits. “Expected queueing time is over 24 hours and overnight temperatures will be cold,” it said. But as of Saturday afternoon, the estimated queueing time had been reduced to 14 hours.
Members of the public will be permitted to visit the hall until 6.30am on September 19, with the funeral following at 11am.
In recent days, King Charles and other members of the royal family have embarked on visits and ceremonial meetings across the country as the national mourning period continues.
The King and his siblings took part in a vigil around the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall on Friday evening. They stood with their heads bowed while the public filed past them.
On Saturday, the King undertook audiences with officials including the governors-general of the realms and military leaders such as the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin. Later in the day, he is expected to receive the prime ministers of the realms, including Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, in Buckingham Palace.
Downing Street said on Saturday that prime minister Liz Truss and US president Joe Biden would hold a bilateral meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, instead of an informal meeting in Downing Street on Sunday.
Truss is expected to have informal meetings with a handful of leaders on Sunday who are in the UK to pay their respects at the state funeral, including Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Canadian premier Justin Trudeau.
The prime minister also held a phone call with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, president of the UAE, on Saturday in which the leader expressed his condolences. Truss is expected to speak to Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, later on Saturday evening.