Queen Elizabeth II death: The day London stopped for a King's funeral
More than 300,000 people viewed George VI’s coffin over three days at it lay-in-state at Westminster Hall, some people queuing for 12 hours in the snow for a last glimpse of the man not born to be King.
Even larger numbers are expected to wait for their turn on Monday to witness his late daughter, Elizabeth II, lying-in-state in the same building 70 years later.
Although the reigns of George VI and Elizabeth II spanned separate centuries, the scale of the public response to the death of the monarch in 2022 appears undiminished.
Some commentators have suggested even more people will queue for the late Queen than they did her father, with one newspaper suggesting 750,000 people may come.
In Scotland, thousands have already attended St Giles’ Cathedral where the Queen rested overnight before she is due to head to Buckingham Palace this evening. (Tuesday).READ MORE: Scotland bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth IIBack in 1952, one man shared his thoughts on why he waited 12 hours in the cold for his moment to enter Westminster Hall to pay tribute to the King who steadied Britain through World War Two.
"Well it’s the King, ain’t it? Wouldn’t do it for anyone else, mind you,” the mourner said.
In his BBC commentary of events, broadcaster Richard Dimbleby said: “Never safer, better guarded, lay a sleeping king than this, with a golden candlelight to warm his resting place, and the muffled footsteps of his devoted subjects to keep him company.”
The Queen will be far from alone in Westminster Hall, with queues of up to five miles of mourners expected.
George VI died on the Sandringham Estate on February 6, 1952 from lung cancer, with it said the late nights of heavy smoking to offset the stresses of his wartime responsibilities ultimately killed him.READ MORE: In my memory, I don't think she will ever die – Scots pay tribute to The QueenLike his daughter, George VI’s body remained in the countryside he loved for several days after his death before ultimately arriving in London for his state funeral.
Like her father, Elizabeth II will be finally laid to rest at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle this Monday.
On the morning of the George VI’s funeral procession, Big Ben chimed 56 times, the mighty bell sounding once for ever year of the monarch’s life.
It is estimated two million people turned out that day to witness the King’s coffin move through the UK capital, most with their hats off in the winter gloom, with the tears of women who lined the streets widely documented.
The coffin, complete with crown and white wreath on top, was placed on a gun carriage and pulled by Royal Navy seamen through the capital streets to Paddington Station, a distance of just under three miles, from where his journey to Windsor on the Royal Train began.
The young Queen, just 25 when she ascended the throne following the premature death of her father, broke with tradition at the last minute as the Sovereign, who would normally ride alone behind the coffin of their predecessor, travelled instead alongside her mother and sister, Princess Margaret.
An earlier break with protocol occurred on the steps of Westminster Hall, when three Queens – Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and Queen Mary – waited for the head of their family to arrive from Sandringham via Kings Cross in the sleet and the rain.
According to the ceremonial, the King’s body should have been met by the Archbishop of York, the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshall, the Duke of Norfolk.
Amid the deep ceremony, this was a family moment, the confines of muscular state protocol briefly relaxed to make way for love and comfort.
As the procession got underway, eyes also fell on the man who put George VI on the throne. The Duke of Windsor, whose abdication led to the accession of his brother, walked behind the Queen’s carriage, appearing emotional.
His attendance at the funeral was the first time he had taken part in an official public ceremony since he left for the United States in 1936.
Foreign royalty, heads of state and the armed forces made up the procession, along with peers and the Lords Spiritual, their dark robes adding a medieval feel to proceedings, according to reports.
The rear of the cortege was made up detachments of police from every force in England and Scotland, with senior officers from Paisley, Glasgow and Montrose among them.
Queen Mary, the widow of George V, who was then 83, did not take part in the procession, but watched from Marlborough House. She was one of thousands who witnessed proceedings on television.
The broadcast is said to have sparked a rush for buying television sets, a phenomenon that peaked with the Queen’s Coronation the following year.
More than 120 roads were closed in London to clear the way for the procession, with soldiers lining the streets and members of the public densely packed behind them.
Many windows were draped in purple, the colour associated with royalty, power and wealth for centuries given the rarity and cost of the dye.
The quiet that fell over London as the procession passed was noted by several commentators.
"The hush of the Metropolis was a tribute that none can forget,” wrote one.
Never was so great a crowd so silent, another newspaper reported.
Chopin's Funeral March was broadcast as the coffin arrived at Paddington, the Royal Train leaving for Windsor at 12:20pm.
A simple service was held for the King in St George's Chapel. When the funeral got underway at 2pm, the nation fell silent, with even passengers on a transatlantic flight to New York rising from their seats to bow their heads, according to accounts.
Television cameras were banished from the service, as they will be on Monday when the Queen is laid to ultimate rest.
The state funeral for Elizabeth II is the first to be held since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
The Queen Mother, who died in 2002, and Prince Philip, who died last year, both had ceremonial funerals.
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