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'A wave of emotion hit me': Royal mourners tell HELLO! why they felt compelled to see the Queen lying in state after long queue

Queue to see the Queen lying in state has reached 14 hours

royal mourners
Sharnaz Shahid
Sharnaz ShahidDeputy Online Editor
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Royal mourners from across the globe have flanked the south banks of the River Thames in order to pay their final respects to the late Queen.

MORE: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Prince Andrew to miss state event - details

Queen Elizabeth II's lying in state began at 5pm on Wednesday, and an estimated 400,000 people are expected to make the journey, with queue times now peaking at 14 hours.

WATCH: Royal family deliver Queen to nation ahead of lying in state

We spoke with two royal well-wishers and university friends, Beth Nightingale, 32, and James Boumphrey, 33, who were among the thousands that waited in line overnight when the lying in state first began.

MORE: King Charles' touching gesture to Prince Harry on his birthday

WATCH: Meghan Markle's reaction as the Queen's coffin enters Westminster Hall

Following an excited group WhatsApp chat, and having stumbled across James whilst walking to the queue, mum-of-one Beth confessed she felt compelled by a sudden urge to drop everything she was doing to join the four-mile-long queue.

"I was 12 when the Queen Mother died and I remember the queues filing past her coffin and since then I have always said I would go see the Queen when she dies," she explained to HELLO!. "I have always had a deep respect for the Queen and felt like I would regret it if I didn't at least try to see her lying in state. Plus, James and my husband Chris gave me the encouragement I needed to just do it."

queen lying in state

The Queen's lying in state started on Wednesday

Without any hesitation, Beth packed a small bag - complete with her mobile phone and spare portable charger - and drove down to London all the way from her home in Billericay.

For James, he wanted to represent his family. "I decided to see the Queen Lying in State to pay tribute to her amazing service as our Monarch," he shared. "In addition, I know a number of my family would have loved to be there but could not, but by me going I was able to represent them."

James, from Harold Wood, joined the queue after work at 6pm, while Beth arrived at 9pm - both travelled to London by themselves. They waited nine hours and eight and a half hours respectively.

Although the wait time was long, neither of them felt lonely as they managed to speak to those in the line with them and security guards attempted to keep spirits up. But knowing that they were sharing this once-in-a-lifetime experience together was somewhat comforting. "We were WhatsApping each other messages of encouragement," dad-of-one James revealed.

james boumphrey queue

James Boumphrey paid his respects on behalf of his family

Of the atmosphere, Beth added: "Everyone was so friendly. There was no negativity. Everyone was respectful. There was no one trying to push in, no jostling because everyone was there for the same purpose."

She continued: "There was lots of generosity. I was offered an assortment of snacks." The kindness didn't stop there. "In front of me I saw a man lend his spare raincoat to a woman who was getting cold," she said.

"I was pretty certain I was witnessing the start of a romance... but unfortunately the lady left the queue at Lambeth Bridge and they didn't exchange numbers. Everyone was sharing stories. People talked about what it was like when they last did this for the Queen Mother. I also had a guy behind me who took his mum - whom he was very caring for - it was lovely for them to spend that time together."

beth nightingale

Beth Nightingale felt lucky to see the lying in state

Despite spending most of their night in the queue, both James and Beth expressed their gratitude over having the chance to pay their respects. Once inside, there was a peaceful serenity awaiting them in Westminster Hall where "you could hear a pin drop" in the silence.

"When we reached Westminster Hall it felt magical," James remarked. "You truly got a sense of being part of history. I was in the room for maybe three minutes and was lucky to see a changing of the guard which was incredibly moving. As I approached the Queen my thoughts turned to my own Grandma and I couldn't help but feel emotional."

Beth felt like a "wave of emotion" had hit her. "You get so used to the stop start nature of the queue but at the very end it moves so quickly and before you know it you're at the entrance to the hall," she said. "I was mostly taken by how serene it felt inside. I felt lucky to be there. To witness the guard change was fascinating. Seeing the coffin made it feel real and I had a wave of emotion hit me.

"A few tears rolled down my cheeks as I left. It was special. I had been worried the queue would have taken away from the experience and made it feel anticlimatic but the opposite happened, it made it worthwhile."

Describing the moment she saw the Queen's coffin, Beth explained: "Whilst standing on the stairs I was struck by how big a moment it felt. Looking at a coffin made me tear up a little but I held it together.

"I walked right by the coffin and bowed my head as I went past, I wanted to take it all in - I saw the crown jewels and flowers on top of the coffin. As I walked to the exit, I turned to look back a few times and then finally left after ten minutes inside. A couple of tears rolled down my cheeks. I left the hall at 5.50am just as it was starting to get bright out. The mood outside was sombre and clearly lots of people were reflecting on the moment."


The friends documented their queue time

Asked what they would tell others who are on the cusp of joining the queue, James encouragingly said: "The queue is long, but definitely worth it! Feels very special to be part of history. Be prepared for a four to five hour wait when you reach the Palace of Westminster - it is deceiving how fast the queue moves along the south bank - and pack a jacket as it can get chilly at night."

Beth noted: "If you think you want to do it, just do it and be mentally prepared that it is a long wait. I went in naively thinking, 'Oh, the queue is moving, we'll be there before you know it but that was NOT the case.' Seeing the houses of parliament is really the halfway point. Snacks are good, high energy recommended.

"Don't take any liquids you don't want to lose. Perfumes and hand sanitiser were all being confiscated."

On reflection, Beth stated: "I feel proud of myself that I stuck it out. It felt like an endurance challenge, physically standing for over eight hours. It was particularly hard on Lambeth Bridge when the queue had stopped, it was 3am and so cold. But having said that, it was worth it. Felt like a once in a lifetime experience. It was worthwhile and will remain in my memory forever."

James added: "Having time to think in the queue made me reflect on the change the Queen saw in her reign, from the end of rationing to the invention of the internet, it was an incredible journey. I also came away with a sense of hope for the future, thinking of the changes we'll see under King Charles. It was an amazing experience, and one I will always treasure."

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