'She’s given her entire life for us': Thousands descend on capital to bid Queen Elizabeth II farewell

The Star's Dominic Robertson reports from London during the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II.

The funeral was shown on big screens in Hyde Park
The funeral was shown on big screens in Hyde Park

For most The Queen is the only monarch they remember, serving for a lifetime, sitting 70 years on the throne.

On the streets of central London, as Queen Elizabeth II took her final journey, thousands of people flooded into Westminster and Hyde Park for their chance to say a final goodbye. In the throngs filing along the streets, the people sat watching the giant screens and the scores lining the route, the sadness of the past few days had been replaced with a sense of respect.

This was a chance to celebrate the woman who has stood quiet and firm as the head of state no matter the noise that surrounded her.

Young, old, formal, informal. Be it a full shirt, waistcoat and black tie, or a hoodie and trainers, the day was one for common ground.

Many people gathered to pay their respects in true British fashion

The surreal nature of the occasion was made all the more unusual with streets closed to traffic and mourners able to walk down the roads, slowly all making their way to pay their own tributes on routes that would normally be filled with cars, busily arrowing their way through the rush hour.

Some were too young to realise the significance of what was going on around them – a child in a pram was captivated by another kind of royalty, Elsa in the Disney hit Frozen, playing on her mum’s phone.

Watching on Hyde Park’s big screens the mood changed as the Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey. The thousands looking on fell completely silent, the air thick as they watched the historic moment.

Some stood, hands crossed in front, as if she were passing mere metres away, while others sat fixated, watching the new King joined by his family for the most public of private moments.

People wait in Green Park..

From some looking on there were tears, no wailing, but genuine and heartfelt sadness for their own loss, for other people’s loss, for the lonely sight of Her Majesty’s crown atop the coffin, for the change and the loss of what seemed a constant, unchanging part of all our lives.

Again there was a mood of unity as The Queen was carried into the Abbey.

Across Hyde Park, as one, every person stood, a giant instinctive wave as the reality of the moment became clear.

With choral strains filling the air, thousands rose to their feet, some stood arm in arm, in total silence delivering their own respect for the woman that united them all.

The collective sadness of the moment was delivered in true British fashion – a stoic tribute fitting of The Queen herself, all silent, all stood, all stiff upper lip – a reflection of her own commitment to duty, putting the moment and the greater good ahead of whatever feelings stir inside.

As the service continued, crowds continued to file in, all wanting to see it, to share the moment, be part of the collective respect, witnessing a moment of history, marking a reign unlikely to ever be repeated.

Some stood with medals on their chests, a final service to the Queen who took their allegiance as younger men. Others watched intently, hidden behind dark glasses, listening to the prayers delivered in memory.

Frankie Richards and Kim Crane, from Perton, at the funeral

The global significance of the moment could be seen with TV crews from across the world watching on, darting amongst the crowds, looking for fellow countrymen who had decided to join in the historic occasion.

As the psalm’s from the Queen’s coronation were sung, the sun broke through the clouds, shining for the first time on an overcast morning.

Again the thousands rose, standing in their own tribute, preparing for the moment they all knew was coming.

The Last Post, for the last time for Queen Elizabeth II, was followed with silence – two minutes of air thick with emotion, two minutes to remember 70 years.

As the trumpets broke the quiet then came the applause, a spontaneous burst with those watching on joining for a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem.

The final moment, the final goodbye, as the coffin was carried out, was greeted with a last sombre salute, as mourners dabbed away tears, bowed their heads, and watched on in silent vigil as Queen Elizabeth left the Abbey where, a lifetime ago, her coronation had taken place – beginning a reign, the like of which none of us will ever see again.

Those who had watched proceedings spoke afterwards of the special atmosphere and their gratitude at being able to make it to London. Most would not get to see the Queen’s procession in any other form than on the big screen. Some were content to watch on their own phone.

But it was important for everyone to be part of the collective – one in a crowd mourning the death of the Queen but also celebrating her life.

Dawn Samuels, a retired police officer who lives north of the Shropshire border near Wrexham, said she had needed to take the chance to pay her respects. She said: “I have just had this urge inside my heart, every time I talk about it I want to cry.

“Every time I would go to London I would joke that I was 'going to see the Queen' but this is the last time I will be able to say that.”

She added that she had felt a need to join the collective occasion, to be part of remembering the monarch.

“I could not go to the lying in state so I felt I needed to come down and wanted to be part of it,” she said.

Waiting at Hyde Park Corner, Brenda Lee Howard, 54, from Vancouver in Canada, said she had rearranged holiday plans to make sure she could be in London for the funeral, and had also waited 12 hours in line to see The Queen lying in state.

She said: “Every time the Queen came to Canada we would go and see her. I have just grown up with her. My mum is British, and I have always grown up with respect for the monarchy.”

The Reynolds and McNaughton family were in London for the occasion

Nora McNaughton, 52, part of a group of nine friends and family who had met up from Devon and the Wirral, were sat with Brenda ahead of the service.

She said The Queen had been “inspirational”.

“We are in awe of everything she has done - leading the family, leading the country, and just wanted to be here with everyone else,” she said.

Alexandra Cussons, 28, said the crowd in central London was full of mother and daughter pairs, which illustrated the Queen’s importance as a matriarch.

Alexandra, along with her mother Sheila Martin, both from London, befriended another pair, Clare Ronai and Lister Bolton, in the crowd.

She said she had been brought to tears when the service commenced and was comforted by Ms Ronai, also from London.

“The Queen was in a sense an icon for women and mothers,” she said.

For some well-wishers, their journeys began at 2am as they travelled to London to watch the funeral.

Christine Birch, 61, her husband Stephen Birch, 58, and friend Margaret Frost, 68, left Bakewell, Derbyshire, in the early hours to pay their respects to the late monarch.

An emotional Mrs Birch said: “It’s strange to come down to London for something so sad, because normally we come to all the celebrations.

“It’s going to be very emotional for everyone.

“I think it’s very important that the whole country has come together for this.

“The least we could all do is to make an effort to pay our respects.

“She’s given her entire life for all of us.”

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News