he queue to reach the Queen’s coffin took some mourners more than nine hours to complete but many said the long wait was worth it.
At one point during the first full day of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall volunteers along the route, which hugged the south banks of the River Thames, said there could be another 10-12 hours to go from Tower Bridge.
Mourners said there was “breath-taking” serenity awaiting them in Westminster Hall where “you could hear a pin drop” in the silence.
As of 11.30pm on Thursday, the queue was 4.9 miles long, drifting back as far as Southwark Park in Bermondsey, with an estimated wait time of nine hours.
Nurse Melanie Pickman, 50, left her home in Swansea at 11am to join the back of the queue just before 3pm.
The mother-of-three said: “My sons think I’m mad because I have come to London to stand in a queue which some people say could be 30 hours long.
“Last night I thought about it and I made the decision to come first thing this morning. I just thought that I needed to come.
“We will never see this again. She served our country for such a long time. We owe it to her to show our respect.
“Look at all these people who have shown up to queue – she has made them happy.
“She may be the Queen but she is also somebody’s mum, aunty and granny. I just think she is part of us as well. We have been lucky to have her.”
There was a tinge of sadness, overwhelming amounts of respect and lots of good-natured chatter as strangers quickly built friendships with those walking beside them for much of the day.
It was suprisingly also not overly noisy despite thousands of people, ranging from the elderly to babes in arms, joining the growing crowd.
Bonuses included mild temperatures in the early 20Cs, the rain holding off and a route which passed landmarks including the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern.
Firefighters were seen handing out bottles of water, volunteers from the Samaritans were available and there was a noticeable presence of stewards, police and portable toilets along the route.
The UK chief commissioner of the Scouts said the mood among the crowds waiting to pay their respects was “friendly and poignant”.
Carl Hankinson, who is among volunteers to monitor the queue throughout Victoria Gardens, said Scouts had been “on their feet 12 hours” a day to help ensure the smooth running of admissions.
The Scout, who once met the Queen at a garden party, said: “She was fantastic in every way – she was interested in Scouts, she was conversational, very encouraging and very supportive of young people.”
Marc Carney, 58, filed past the Queen’s coffin at 6.40pm after travelling from his home in Hythe, Kent, on Thursday morning.
The moment he got to say his personal goodbye left him “struck by the realism” of everything that is happening.
He said: “It hits you how moving it all us and how much love and support there’s for the Queen.”
Mr Carney joined the queue at about 11.30am and said “it had been difficult to find the end of it because the line kept on growing as I was walking towards it”.
He added: “It was so rewarding and peaceful in lots of ways. You also got to see London under a different cloud.
“It was worth it making that long journey. It makes you focus on what you are here for.”
Earlier, three well-wishers who befriended each other in the queue said there had been a friendly “camaraderie” among the crowd.
Amy Harris, 34, and Matthew Edwards, 35, met James Cross, 65, after getting the train to London from Birmingham to join the queue at about 1am.
Mr Cross said: “Everyone in the queue was very friendly, chatting and having a laugh. It was really quite lovely.”
Mr Edwards said: “Everyone was offering biscuits, drinks,” adding that the three were now planning to have a pint together after the long wait.
The atmosphere in Westminster Hall was “breath-taking,” Ms Harris said.
“When you’re able to go in and have a moment to look at it and reflect, the serenity of it – to be able to pay your respects in such a serene place, it’s very peaceful.”
Fiona Holloran, 34, wept as she left Westminster Hall after paying her respects to the Queen.
The Londoner said: “It was very moving to see the vigil around her – I was a little bit surprised at how much it struck me.”
The PhD student, who queued since 6.30am with her baby strapped to her in a carrier, said the wait had been “worth it”.
“It’s lovely that everyone has just a moment to themselves – no one was pushing.”