Tens of thousands of people stood outside overnight in Edinburgh Tuesday in a line that snaked through a park and then stretched more than a kilometre uphill to St. Giles’ Cathedral, where the Queen’s coffin lay at rest.
The public visitation in Scotland is the first time since Queen Elizabeth’s death last week that people have been able to pay their respects in person. The cathedral was open to the public for just 22 hours, and thousands who joined the line Monday evening waited until the wee hours of Tuesday morning to get in.
At one point the line just to join the line was longer than the officially cordoned off route for the queue up to the cathedral.
When Mark Charlesworth arrived Monday evening, he and the dozens of others joining the back of the unofficial line were told it would be 8:30 Tuesday morning before they got through.
“If she can do 70 years, I can do 12 hours,” he said in response.
He was one of more than 26,000 people who had paid their respects to the Queen by midday Tuesday. Officials closed the queue at noon in the hopes that the people already in line would make it through. While they waited, people shared snacks and made new friends.
Officials had been hoping to get 4,000 people through per hour, but there were some security delays early on. At the park where people lined up for wristbands to join the official line, a coffee stand stayed open until 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. The sausage roll shop beside it had been planning to stay open all night but was sold out by 7:45 p.m. Monday.
On Monday night, Rhona Waddell walked slowly through the line with Margaret Cousin, who had driven to Edinburgh with her daughter and grandchildren. “When you see the amount of people that are out here today, that is testament to the Queen,” Ms. Cousin said.
They and the thousands of others were there to pay their respects to a queen they hadn’t met but still mourned.
“I can’t think of anybody else in the world that has done a job for 70-plus years. She’s been so dedicated and she’s never wavered. It’s always been the same dedication for over 70 years,” Ms. Waddell said.
The journey and wait were well worth it, Ms. Cousin said after she had walked through the cathedral, on track to get home around 2 a.m.
A few hours later in Glasgow, eight-year-old Peyton Gillespie and her mum, Gemma, woke up before sunrise to catch the 5 a.m. bus to Edinburgh. The scene inside St. Giles’ Cathedral was “really sad,” Peyton said after she had walked through.
“She has the same birthday as me and I really like her,” she said of the Queen.
Early Tuesday morning, schoolchildren in uniform were filing through the cathedral with their parents. Some elderly mourners made their way slowly with walkers, and morning commuters tried their luck before heading to work.
“I feel really quite privileged that I’ve now been in,” said Paula Buchanan, who had joined the line when it was at its shortest Tuesday morning. After the pomp and circumstance of the processions for the Queen on Sunday and Monday, she said the visitation was more peaceful and intimate.
“You’re not hurried. You can spend time there if you wish to do so,” she said. “There’s no words spoken because there doesn’t need to be.”
The Queen’s coffin will be flown to London Tuesday evening and will lie in state in Westminster Hall beginning Wednesday. The crowds in London are expected to dwarf the throngs of people who have descended on Edinburgh. People are already lining up for the visitation in the capital.
Delroy Morrison, 62, arrived Monday at Westminster Hall and plans to spend another night on the sidewalk. “I came to pay my respects,” he said next to a bag full of food and warm clothing.
Officials have warned that people may have to wait up to 12 hours to get in, and there have been estimates that the line could extend for more than four kilometres. Roads around the hall will be closed, and subway service in the area will be limited.