Today is the last day for RSVP Heads of State to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday, September 19. For those planning on watching on the streets of London or on TV, here’s the guide on where to watch the funeral procession and how to get around London in the process.
It will be one of the largest events the military has ever staged and police have called it a logistical nightmare. Transport for London said it was much more difficult than organizing the London 2012 Olympics, as they then had an idea of the timing of events scheduled and ticket holders. If so, no one knows 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 all countries have been invited (except six: Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan).
The staging of Queen Elizabeth II
Her Majesty is currently resting in state in Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster (known as the Houses of Parliament). The coffin is on a plinth, called a catafalque, draped in the Royal Standard flag with an orb and scepter displayed on top.
She is surrounded by members of the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division or the Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London, who are on watch 24 hours a day, with a change of guard every 20 minutes.
The government is run a live queue trace to detail the length of the queue to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II as her coffin rests in state.
The queue on Thursday ranged from 2 to 4.6 miles long, passing Waterloo along the South Bank, past Borough Market and HMS Belfast on the River Thames to London Bridge. There is an infrastructure in place to deal with a queue of up to 10 miles. To give an example, a 4.6 mile queue 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, from 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 need it.
- People who join the queue receive wristbands indicating their seat, meaning they can leave for comfort breaks and a bite to eat.
- Photography is not permitted inside Westminster Hall.
- Everyone will go through security (at Victoria Tower Gardens) and people can store large bags (needed to survive a night in the queue) in lockers provided. Obviously, no sharp objects are allowed and no objects can be left inside Westminster Hall.
- Queues can only bring one small bag measuring no more than 40cm x 30cm x 20cm, with only one opening or zipper.
- Mourners are asked to observe silence as they walk through Westminster Hall.
Westminster Hall is open 24 hours a day until 6.30am on Monday, September 19, the day of his funeral. Dignitaries arriving for the funeral will also be able to visit through a separate entrance and join the public as they pass by to pay their respects.
If you can’t attend the lie-in-state currently taking place in Westminster Hall, the BBC is broadcasting the event live here.
There will be a nationwide minute of silence for the Queen on Sunday September 18 at 8pm UK time.
The Queen’s funeral takes place on Monday September 19 at 11 a.m.
The route has been planned down to the minute:
- The congregation is expected to begin seating inside Westminster Abbey from 8am.
- At 10.44 a.m. 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 a.m. Members of the Royal Family will walk behind her, as they did when she left Buckingham Palace this week and 200 musicians will perform.
- The service will begin at 11 a.m. and end at noon, after a two-minute silence across the country.
- At that time, the coffin will be taken on the gun carriage by procession to Wellington Arch, led by members of the police and armed forces, as well as NHS workers.
- For anyone wishing to see the procession, it will walk from Westminster Abbey to Whitehall, through Horse Guard’s Parade, to the Mall and finally to Constitution Hill.
- From there a hearse will take the coffin to Windsor where it is expected to arrive at Shaw Farm Gate at 3.06pm and there will be a procession to The Long Walk (in front of large expected crowds) before another short television service at 4pm from Chapel St. -George.
- Her Majesty’s body will be laid to rest in the King George VI Memorial Chapel at 7.30pm in a private service before only her family. She will be buried next to her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Practical information for getting around London
Monday has been declared a public holiday, which means that many services, such as doctors and schools, will be closed. Also expect museums to be closed across the country.
Many shops and restaurants will be closed – MacDonald’s, for example, closes all stores between midnight and 5 p.m., and all major supermarkets close larger stores, but some will keep smaller ones open. This means it’s worth taking picnics and enough supplies, as even if they stay open there can be long queues.
All planned rail strikes were called off when news of the Queen’s death broke. However, all public transport routes are expected to be heavily congested. When getting around central London, walking may be the best option, as distances between stations are often shorter than they appear on the Tube map.
Transport for London reported that 115,000 more Tube journeys were made at the eight main stations in Zone 1 on Wednesday alone, compared to the same day last week.
British Airways has canceled 1 in 7 flights, as reported by The Telegraph, to keep skies clear and noise pollution to a minimum. Heathrow Airport has announced it will halt all flights 15 minutes before national silence and 15 minutes after, as reported by The Guardian. This would disrupt 15% of Heathrow’s schedule for Monday.
How to watch the Queen’s funeral on TV
In the UK, Sky News and the BBC will cover the service and commentate throughout the day. In the US, NBC, CNN, ABC, Fox News and others will livestream the service, which begins at 3:00 a.m. PT or 6:00 a.m. ET.