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Watching the mendacity-in-nation – ‘The queue has a meditative magic of its very own’

Mourners paying their respects as they pass the Queen's coffin

I by no means deliberate to look at a stay circulation of the Queen mendacity in nation, however on occasion you locate your self at a tipping point.


For me, it changed into gaining knowledge of that tens of thousands and thousands of human beings had already tuned in to the feed from Westminster Hall. Human beings have an insatiable choice to experience like they belong and, closing time I checked, I qualify as human.

Intrigued, I loaded the feed directly to my iPad as I researched an interview with a US indie band.

Two hours later, I changed into nonetheless looking.

It’s now no longer as though some thing startling befell in that time. There changed into in reality not anything to evaluate with the royal defend who fainted to the ground early on Thursday morning. But the lengthy and silent queue of human beings paying their respects has a uniquely meditative magic of its very own.

Servicemen with medals from Iraq and Afghanistan salute the Queen. Others pass themselves with a mumbled “thank you”. One lady blew a kiss.

Bored youngsters twist on their dad and mom’ palms and pull itchily at uncomfortable dresses. A child in a pram clutches a Paddington bear.

This being Britain, no-one appears totally certain what to do withinside the presence of death. Some human beings curtsey awkwardly, a few look warily at the coffin. At one point, an Asian couple bow thoughtfully and, for the following five minutes, anybody else appears like they need to do it, too.

And the queue shuffles ever ahead in quiet contemplation.

More than 750,000 human beings are predicted to have filed via Westminster Hall through Monday. Watching them, even at domestic, is unusually transferring.

“Do you observed you may go?” asks my mum at the phone from Northern Ireland. “I assume if I changed into in London I might. I changed into born the 12 months she changed into made Queen, so it felt such as you knew her, despite the fact that you didn’t”.

My son, arriving domestic from faculty to locate me nonetheless looking the feed, is much less impressed.

“That’s the line-up aspect to peer the Queen,” he observes. “It’s creepy. Dead body.”

  • Watch: Queen Elizabeth II’s mendacity-in-nation
  • Nick Robinson: The ‘faucet faucet’ amid the hall’s silence

I quick pause to Google what befell while the Queen’s father, George VI, lay in nation 70 years ago; and the similarities are striking.

A Pathé newsreel captures a queue stretching 3 miles into principal London, ready patiently via the snowy nights of February 1952, with the doorways of Westminster Hall simplest beginning in daylight.

“Their night time relaxation they supply to the king,” the newsreader intones decoratively. “Keeping vigil that they’ll make their closing salute to a cherished monarch.”

Just like Queen Elizabeth II, the King’s coffin changed into raised on a catafalque and draped in his royal standard, surrounded through the brass pass of Westminster Abbey and the 4 candles from the tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The maximum substantial difference? The clothes.

In 1952, anybody wore their Sunday best. Neatly pressed suits, black ties, tasteful hats. On modern day stay feed, you can see the entirety from the crimson berets of the Royal Military Police to tracksuits and Mountain Warehouse waterproofs. There are ladies in hijabs and carrying papooses and, memorably, a person dressed because the Tardis.

It’s a signal of the way lots society modified over the Queen’s reign – the losing of protocol and deference that has, in a few quarters, referred to as the very lifestyles of the monarchy into question.

But it additionally illustrates the modernisation she ushered in. People like my mum got here to consider her as “our Queen”. And that sentiment is obvious withinside the heaps of folks who are queuing for as much as 30 hours to say goodbye. Mourners dab tears away with crumpled tissues. One lady reads a speech from a notebook. Sadly, the feed would not seize what she’s saying.

Eventually, as I succumb to work, the feed will become background noise.

I’m reminded of the Beatles’ Get Back documentary, another fly-on-the-wall movie that seemingly by no means ended. After sitting rapt for the first episode, I permit the others play out as I were given on with my day. It changed into a nice companion. I’d be creating a cup of tea and Ringo Starr might be withinside the corner, arising with the chords for Octopus’s Garden.

I assume that facilitates provide an explanation for the sudden viewership of the Queen’s mendacity in nation. It suits right into a fashion for gradual television – lengthy, contemplative programmes that evolve glacially over hours or even days. It started in 2009 while the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) televised a seven-hour teach adventure from Bergen to the capital of Oslo; and got here to the UK in 2015, with BBC Four screening pictures of the Dawn Chorus and the making of a glass jug.

The broadcast from Westminster Hall presents the identical opportunity for considerate reflection, whether or not you are mourning the Queen or considering a lack of your very own.

It’s now no longer misplaced on me that this type of public accumulating wasn’t feasible for Prince Philip’s memorial closing 12 months. Many of the mourners are nonetheless carrying face masks, and could have handed the National Covid Memorial Wall as they come in Westminster. The Samaritans are accessible to assist individuals who are overcome.


And unexpectedly I’m remembering my very own grandmother’s funeral, all through the lockdown again in Northern Ireland.

Only 15 human beings had been approved to wait however, because the hearse set off for the cemetery, dozens of relatives, buddies and buddies gathered at the rain-soaked avenue in which my dad and mom stay, to ship her off.

That easy gesture changed into one of the maximum transferring moments of my life. And even as the royals are used to crowds greeting their each move, I suspect they’ll be further beaten through this week’s show of affection.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you’ve got got a story concept email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

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