Today is the last day for Heads of State to RSVP to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday 19 September. For those who plan to watch on the streets of London or on television, here’s the guide on where to watch the funeral procession and how to get around London in the process.
This will be one of the largest events ever carried out by the military and the police have called it a logistical nightmare. Transport for London has said that it is much more difficult than organizing the London Olympics in 2012 because then they had an idea of the time of planned events and ticket holders. In this case, no one is sure how many people will be on the streets of central London and how and when they will decide to travel. The added complication is that heads of state from every country have been invited (except six: Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan).
The Lying-in-State of Queen Elizabeth II
Her Majesty is currently lying-in-state in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster (known as Parliament). The coffin is on a plinth, called a catafalque, draped in the Royal Standard flag with an Orb and Sceptre displayed on top.
She is surrounded by members of the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division or Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London, who are maintaining a round-the-clock vigil, with a change of guard happening every 20 minutes.
The government is running a live queue-tracker to detail how long the queue is to pay your respects to Queen Elizabeth II as her coffin lies-in-state.
On Thursday, the queue varied from 2 to 4.6 miles long, running past Waterloo along the South Bank, past Borough market and HMS Belfast on the river Thames to London Bridge. There is infrastructure in place to cope with a queue of up to 10 miles. To provide an example, a queue of 4.6 miles would mean a 9-hour wait.
There are very specific instructions for visitors who wish to queue to pay their respects:
- There is a separate access point for disabled mourners, starting at Tate Britain. It is not necessary to provide details or proof of the disability in question.
- There is also step-free access for people who require it.
- People joining the queue are given wristbands marking their place, meaning they can leave for comfort breaks and to grab a bite to eat.
- Photography is not allowed inside Westminster Hall.
- Everyone will pass through security (at Victoria Tower Gardens) and people may store large bags (necessary to survive a night in the queue) in lockers provided. Clearly, no sharp objects are allowed and no objects can be left inside Westminster Hall.
- Queuers can only bring one small bag measuring no more than 40cm x 30cm x 20cm, with only one opening or zip.
- Mourners are asked to observe silence as they pass through Westminster Hall.
Westminster Hall is open 24 hours a day until 06.30 on Monday 19 September, the day of her funeral. Dignitaries who arrive for the funeral will also be able to visit through a separate entrance and join the public as they shuffle past to pay their respects.
If you cannot attend the lying-in-state currently happening at Westminster Hall, the BBC is livestreaming the event here.
There will be a nationwide minute’s silence for the Queen on Sunday 18 September at 8pm UK-time.
The Queen’s funeral is on Monday 19 September, at 11am
The itinerary has been planned down to each minute:
- The congregation are expected to start taking their seats inside Westminster Abbey from 8am onwards.
- At 10.44 on Monday morning, the coffin will be placed on the same gun carriage that carried Queen Victoria’s coffin in 1901 for the short procession to Westminster Abbey, where Queen Elizabeth II will arrive at 10.52. Members of the Royal family will walk behind her, as they did when she left Buckingham Palace this week and 200 musicians will play.
- The service will start at 11am and finish at noon, after a two-minute silence across the country.
- At that point, the coffin will be taken on the gun carriage by procession to Wellington Arch, led by members of the police and armed services, as well as workers in the NHS.
- For anyone wishing to see the procession, it will walk from Westminster Abbey down Whitehall, across Horse Guard’s Parade, down The Mall and finally up Constitution Hill.
- From here, a hearse will drive the coffin to Windsor where it is expected to arrive at Shaw Farm Gate at 3.06pm and there will be a procession up The Long Walk (in front of expected large crowds) before another short televised service at 4pm from St George’s Chapel.
- Her Majesty’s body will be interred in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at 7.30pm in a private service in front of only her family. She will be buried next to her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Practical information for moving about London
Monday has been declared a bank holiday meaning that many services, such as doctor’s and schools will be closed. Expect museums to be closed across the country too.
Many shops and eateries will be closed—MacDonald’s, for example, is closing all stores between midnight and 5pm, and all major supermarkets are closing larger stores, but some will keep smaller ones open. That means that it’s worth taking picnics and enough provisions, as even if they stay open, there may be long queues.
All planned rail strikes were called off when news about the Queen’s death was announced. However, all public transport routes are expected to be heavily jammed—when moving around central London, walking might be the best option as distances are often shorter between stations than they look on the Underground map.
Transport for London reported that 115,000 more tube journeys were made on Wednesday alone in the eight major stations in Zone 1, compared with the same day last week.
British Airways has cancelled 1 in 7 flights, as reported by The Telegraph, to keep the skies clear and noise pollution to a minimum. Heathrow airport has announced that it will stop all flights 15 minutes before the national silence and 15 minutes afterwards, as reported by The Guardian. This will reportedly disrupt 15% of Heathrow’s schedule for Monday.
How to watch the Queen’s funeral on television
In the U.K., Sky News and the BBC will both be covering the service and commentating all day. In the U.S., NBC, CNN, ABC, Fox News and others will livestream the service which begins at 3am PT or 6am ET.