he Queen was handed to the care of the nation for a period of lying in state after her family marched in homage behind her coffin as it was carried to Westminster Hall.
A gun carriage that had borne the coffins of her mother and father carried the late monarch to Westminster Hall – a procession of pomp and pageantry through the heart of the capital watched by tens of thousands who lined the route.
In bright summer sunshine, funeral marches played by military bands added to the solemn mood that left some mourners weeping, while others held up their camera phones to record the historic moment of the procession.
A few hours later the public were silently filing past their Queen, stopping to bow their heads and say “thank you” for her service.
King Charles III led the royal family as they walked behind the coffin, draped with a Royal Standard, adorned with the Imperial State Crown and pulled on a gun carriage of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
Shortly after the arrival of the coffin at Westminster Hall, US President Joe Biden said he had spoken to the King on Wednesday to offer his condolences and shared the “great admiration of the American people” for the Queen.
Thousands of mourners flocked to see the moving sight of the Queen departing the official residence where she spent so much of her working life at the heart of the nation, with viewing areas declared full ahead of the procession starting.
The new monarch walked in line with the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex.
Behind the King were the Queen’s grandsons in a line – Peter Phillips, the Duke of Sussex and the Prince of Wales – who were followed by the late monarch’s son-in-law Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke of Gloucester, the Queen’s cousin, and her nephew the Earl of Snowdown.
The Queen’s coffin was transported on the George Gun Carriage, which carried King George VI’s coffin from Sandringham Church to Wolferton Station in February 1952 and was used during the funeral of the Queen Mother in 2002.
The crowds were treated to the spectacle of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment processing past along with soldiers from the Life Guards and Blues and Royals on foot.
Charles, in his Field Marshal uniform, held onto the end of his Field Marshal Baton, as he walked in step without showing any emotion, Anne and Edward, also in military dress, and Andrew did not betray their emotions.
At Horse Guards Parade, crowds of mourners, many in tears, applauded as the Queen’s coffin and procession entered the vast ceremonial parade ground, with the bells of Big Ben continuing to sound every minute.
Harry, no longer a working royal, and his disgraced uncle Andrew were denied the chance to wear their military uniforms and a few minutes later when they passed the Cenotaph the royals in uniform saluted, while Harry bowed and Andrew performed “eyes right” and looked at the memorial.
The bearer party which carried the Queen’s coffin into Westminster Hall, and provided an escort, were soldiers flown back from Iraq to take part in the ceremony, because of their unique association with the monarch.
The Guardsmen were from the Queen’s Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, whose Company Commander was the Queen, and although a senior officer took day-to-day control, the former sovereign’s connection with her men was strong.
Entrusted with the Queen’s coffin the eight Guardsmen lifted it into place onto the catafalque – a raised platform – while Major Johnny Hathaway-White, Captain of the Queen’s Company helped to lay out the Queen’s Company Colours at its base.
Before the lying in state began a brief service for the reception of the coffin was held, with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, giving the opening prayer.
The service was conducted with the congregation standing and lining the ancient hall was the wider royal family as the King with the Queen Consort stood at the head of their family, with the monarch’s siblings behind, and his sons and their partners William and Kate and Harry and Meghan.
Dozens of MPs and peers were congregated at one end of the hall with the Prime Minister and other party leaders, while at the other stood seven of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, all dressed in black.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said: “God, the maker and redeemer of all mankind: grant us, with thy servant Queen Elizabeth, and all the faithful departed, the sure benefits of thy Son’s saving passion and glorious resurrection; that in the last day, when all things are gathered up in Christ, we may with them enjoy the fullness of thy promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
At one point during the ceremony people turned around and some went to the aid of someone who had been standing with the minor royals.
The first vigil was mounted by four officers from the Household Division – two each from the Blues and Royals and Life Guards – and at some point the Queen’s children will take part in the ancient ceremony over the four days the Queen lies in state.
Just after 5pm members of the public who had waited for days to ensure their position at the front of the queue were allowed into the hall and filed past the Queen’s coffin.
Meanwhile, the King ended his day by returning to his Highgrove home in Gloucestershire for a day of reflection on Thursday and to work in private.