Queen Elizabeth II will be laid to rest on Monday after a state funeral attended by leaders from around the world and a historic last ceremonial journey through the packed streets of London.
After queueing all night, the final members of the public filed through parliament’s cavernous Westminster Hall to see the queen’s coffin lying in state before the doors closed at 6:30 am (0530 GMT).
Chrissy Heerey, a serving member of the Royal Air Force who joined the marathon queue twice, was the last person through the doors and described the experience as “amazing.”
“When they came to me and said, ‘right, you’re the last person’, I said, really?!” she told AFP before heading off to join the crowds for the coffin’s procession through central London.
“A long day but very well worth it. It’s nothing compared to what the queen has done for the country.”
The longest-serving monarch in British history died aged 96 at Balmoral, her Scottish Highland retreat, on September 8 after a year of declining health.
She was succeeded by her 73-year-old eldest son, King Charles III, who late Sunday said he and his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, had been “deeply touched” by the public’s flood of messages.
As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you,” he said.
Britain last held a state funeral in 1965 for the country’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill.
Then, the cranes that once unloaded the spoils of Britain’s vast empire that Elizabeth inherited were lowered in respect as his coffin was borne up the River Thames by barge.
Britain’s global reach has diminished much in the six decades since, and its place in the modern world has become less certain.
But the country will still dig deep into its centuries of tradition to honour the only monarch most Britons have ever known.
Many people have camped out for days to witness pageantry’s elaborate spectacle and pay their final respects.