Pilgrims lined up for hours for the Queen and the country

As a soldier in the Royal Engineers, Laidley Nelson met Elizabeth II three times. The second time she recognized him. “She said, ‘Aren’t you that corporal?’ Her memory is amazing. She didn’t talk to you. ”

Nelson, 71, is in a lucky minority. Most of those who lined up along the Thames last week had no direct experience of the Queen they worship. Seeing her lying in a state in Westminster Hall would be the closest they’d come to her. That’s all they have left.

The queue, at times has skyrocketed so far that it must be closed, will disappear completely early on Monday, with the status lying in an end state at 6:30 a.m. But it can persist in collective memory as a pilgrimage to a non-pilgrim nation, a spiritual retreat in a rapidly fragmenting country.

It helps to close the door not only to the Queen’s reign, but also to the Covid era when health restrictions prevent the shared grieving experience, most obviously in Funeral of Prince Philip in April 2021.

As some have said, is that your favorite thing ever? At its peak, the queue had grown to 4.9 miles and the waiting time had exceeded 24 hours. There is already an unofficial queue to join the queue. It was a mildly appropriate form of group frenzy: while many Americans had been wiped out by QAnon, the British were merely waiting in line.

Former soldier Laidley Nelson, medallion on his chest, in line

Laidley Nelson, 71, who met the queen three times during her military service © Charlie Bibby/FT

Store images of Prince Philip and the Queen on screen

A large screen was set up to show archival footage of the Queen’s life to those waiting to pay their respects.

On the banks of the Thames, however, people in line often have a non-British feel. It’s not like the squishy gray letters found outside post offices and train stations. People talk to strangers and exchange phone numbers. “Does anyone want a snack? Or a small dog? ‘ someone shouted near Westminster Bridge.

After sending the coffin off at Westminster Hall, those in line hugged each other goodbye. “I don’t want to say see you next time, but the world is really small!” a woman had told her companions for the previous 13 hours.

Indeed, the appeal of the queue is that it is nothing like it has been in Britain in recent years: insurmountable, rushed, individualistic. “We’re going through a really bad patch – energy crisis and so on – but let’s never lose hope,” said Kiran Patel, a hospital volunteer who was born in Kenya the day after the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

Queues can be inescapable. During the hours of waiting, there was a lot of talk about the exact cause of the Queen’s death (Buckingham Palace has not specified). There were bets on how long it would take to get in. Then some people lined up to sell their used wearables on eBay, until the company banned them.

People with blankets line up just before dawn near Tower Bridge
People queuing in the early hours of Sunday morning near Tower Bridge © Reuters

Queuing is an exercise in trust – believing that following the rules is enough, the system will deliver. There are alternatives. In 1952, several people died in Argentina, as crowds crumbled to see the body of the late first lady Eva Perón. Britain has had its own tragedies, but this queue – with its Portaloos, and its civil servants and scouts replaced at mob governors – has inspired confidence and patience.

Economists will make a mistake about sunk costs: after an hour of waiting, no one is prepared to quit. Psychologists saw something else: people with varying motivations to line up, some contemplating their own lives ahead of the Queen’s departure.

“At first, the processions were a story. Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist at the University of St Andrews, said it was the crowd that became the story. And so people’s “fear of missing out” became a major motivator.

According to a poll by Rob Johns, a professor at the University of Essex, 60% were Remain voters, reflecting the preponderance of Londoners and 53% voted Conservative, according to a poll by Rob Johns, professor. at the University of Essex. In a section Wednesday were a supermarket checkout clerk, a lawyer, an anti-immigration politician and a one-time Financial Times journalist.

The Beginning of the Queuing System in Southwark . Park

The starting point of the queuing system is at Southwark Park, almost 5 miles and over 12 hours from Westminster Hall © Getty Images

A woman wearing a Union Jacks coat

Stories of close friendship between people waiting to pay their respects have become a big part of the story © AFP / Getty Images

All people in line are not completely equal: MPs can visit without waiting, along with four guests each. But the sense of fair play has been maintained. TV presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby have been accused of jumping in line, although a statement said they visited “in a professional manner”. In contrast, former footballer David Beckham was praised for standing in line for 12 hours.

Why are people willing to wait to experience what can be viewed for free on an internet stream? Reaching the Thames, the question quickly turned: why not? “If I can’t spend 12 hours of my life with someone who gave us 70 years, that’s a bit sad, isn’t it?” Amanda, a care worker from Folkestone said.

It keeps the news stories quiet about anything other than the Queen’s funeral, providing broad publicity not even granted to high-profile football. The weather is also mild. In contrast, George V and George VI died in the winter: some of the 305,000 people saw the latter lying in a state of light snow.

There have been comparable moments in modern Britain: books of condolence for Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997; The Empress Dowager passed away in 2002; and platinum festival this summer. But many in line consider this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. One woman, 7 months pregnant, was looking forward to telling her baby he was there.

Not everyone can do it. Between Wednesday and Saturday, the ambulance service provided medical care to 1,078 people in line, 136 of whom were taken to hospital.

Westminster Hall and various members of the public
Queue to final destination: Near-silent Westminster Hall, where the Queen lies in state © Charlie Bibby/FT

Inside Westminster Hall, there’s silence, disturbed only by the squeak of soles on the carpet and the click of a waiter totaling the numbers. It’s worth it? “Oh yes. Oh goodness I,” said Tim Wood, an inland waterway engineer. Don’t ask if it’s worth the wait: it’s the wait that makes it worth it.

Meanwhile, around Parliament Square on Sunday, crowds had begun arriving for the next stage of mourning: the procession of the Queen’s coffin. Features a tent, foldable chairs and a speaker that plays football songs Three lions. Is there a name for Britons who would do almost anything for a glimpse of the monarchy? “Cazy!” A smiling woman who is preparing to camp.

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