Queueing to pay respects to the Queen: experiences of Penny Post subscribers

The Queue to see the Queen

Several Penny Post subscribers joined the thousands in the queue to pay respects to the Queen. It has been an extraordinary time of coming together; complete strangers from across the country and in fact the world uniting in their shared love and respect for the Queen.

Thanks to the following for sharing their experiences with us.

Clare Middleton, Theale

“When I heard about the Queen’s death, it hit me immediately. I couldn’t stop crying. It was almost like a family bereavement. Thinking about it now I think it’s because in my heart I always thought there would be a time where the Queen had a little bit of retirement or certainly a time away from the public eye where she could rest from her life’s work. So to see her appoint a new prime minister and then pass away two days later was a complete shock to me.  I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness and I knew without doubt that I would make the journey to pay my respects. Where and how I was going to achieve this was the big question. 

Fortunately my son Maxwell also felt the need to pay his respects. We decided to join the queue on Thursday evening when he finished work. Maxwell lives in London so I met him at Green Park and we made our way to Bermondsey and got there at 5:30pm.  it was very strange to see a queue in a residential area. People in their flats were looking down at the queue in disbelief I think. 

At that time we had no idea how long we would queue for. Even as we arrived hundreds more people were joining the queue behind us. 

Shortly we were given our wristbands by volunteer marshalls. At that time we thought the queue would be around seven hours. We had no idea what to expect or how we would cope.

The strange thing is that the time simply went so quickly. The queue took us past so many famous landmarks and at a pace where we could look at them and talk about them.  

We started as strangers in the queue and slowly we got to know each other, look out for each other if we needed to leave the queue for any reason, and to keep each other going if we began to wane. We became friends along the way, learning a lot about each other, people at their best. 

It was around 10.30pm when we got to see the Houses of Parliament across the river. There was a feeling of elation that we were so close. However there would be another 3 1/2 hours before we got to Westminster Hall.

All along the route people were encouraging us saying well done and keep going, you’re getting closer all of those things. The volunteers helping along the route were incredible. 

After we crossed the bridge there became a almost celebratory feeling. The end was in the sight, but still another 2 1/2 hours to wait. This feeling continued right until we came to near the security checks. Once we saw the security tents ahead the mood changed. We reverted to the person or people that we had travelled with and became very quiet and reflective.  The purpose of our pilgrimage at the front of all of our minds. The security checks were incredibly robust. Stricter than any airport with absolutely no liquid or food. People with expensive cosmetics and perfume had to leave them with security, but no one seemed to mind. 

Then the final walk into Wesmister Hall at 2am. The queue was in absolute silence. Even the volunteers were whispering what we needed to do.

What a surreal experience.  The Hall was in total silence, just the sound of people moving along. So emotional and so utterly respectful.  It was overwhelming and it’s very hard to put into words.  Suddenly, the image that you see on TV of the Queen’s coffin is there in front of you. And as you slowly move towards her, you notice the guards standing watch. Then you notice the flowers and the Crown and the Orb and the Sceptre and suddenly an incredible sense of occasion, sadness and pride.  I watched my son bow his head and pay his final respects to the Queen and it broke my heart, this was the moment that we said our own personal goodbye and thank you to our Queen. A final look back as we left the Hall as we walked back into the night.  Still silence from those leaving. 

It was good to be around people who loved the Queen so much.  It made us feel so proud of everything she did for us.  When strangers come together like this it’s a very powerful experience and I’m so grateful that I could be part of that. 

After only a few hours sleep that night we decided the next day (Friday) to go to St James’s Park and Buckingham Palace to see the flowers. 

As an English teacher I was particularly moved by the outpouring of affection for the Queen by school children. One message that caught my eye must have been written buy a very young child simply asking ‘Wy did the quyn has to di’ accompanied by a drawing.  

The atmosphere was of quiet respect with people placing their flowers and taking time to read the messages.  The air smelt like a florist shop, it was beautiful. We even saw a marmalade sandwich!


Jane Goldstein, Marlborough

I went to London with two friends and our 12 hour journey on Friday night to pay our repects to the Queen. It was one of the most surreal and intense experiences of my life and I’ll never forget it. We joined the queue at 8pm and got into the Palace of Westminster at 8am.
The queue was a moving experience in itself with people of all ages and nationalities with many people clearly struggling but full of determination to complete the marathon 5 mile routes. 
Thousands upon thousands of people of all shapes sizes, ages and ethnicities. Lots of elderly people, some struggling on recent knee replacements, yet determined to do it. Young people, kids , military veterans with their medals, a Indian chief (in full headdress), a lady from Canada who came over specifically for this, one of many people from countries all around the world. All prepared to what was needed to recognise and thank this amazing lady.
London was eerily quiet save for the gentle chatter of people in the queue. So few roads were open to cars and hardly anyone on the street.
The sheer logistics behind the event were staggering. It’s one thing to have a plan – but to get matting, toilets, barriers and soo many people in place in such a short time was astonishing.
Westminster Hall, was completely silent, everyone full of respect for our late Queen. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be for her family. There was not a dry eye in the house.
I am so grateful that I made it and I will never forget it for as long as I live.
Thank you Your Majesty for your commitment to your people; an inspiration for us all.”

Fiona Hobson, Hungerford

I took the train to London on Thursday evening and am so very glad I went. It was a very memorable, moving and emotional experience that I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.
I went on my own but made some lovely new friends in the just over 10 hours we queued together. We joined the queue at 18.49 and came out at 04.58 on Friday morning.
 Thank you so much Erika, AJ and Sandy for your company, and a few others that we chatted to through the night, it really enhanced the experience being with you all, thank you for your kindness to me.
I feel like I am at least 90 now but it was so worth it.
Most of all thank you to Queen Elizabeth ll Duke of Lancaster for you love service, dedication, commitment and example over the 70 years you reigned. It was an honour and a privilege to come and show my respect and gratitude.”

David & Sarah Gregory, Burghfield

“Do you know what plantar facitus and Piriformis syndrome are? I will tell you they are NOT a great start to a day where you hear you will be queuing for 8 to 11 hours to see the late Queen Elizabeth lying in state.

To be truthful, we never expected to get there and we didn’t know what to expect. Maybe that’s what saved us.

It seemed like a really pleasant, sunny, post 10am (off-peak) rail journey to London. And it was empty. Reading was empty, Paddington was empty, the Underground was empty all the way through to London Bridge. Maybe that’s what I was looking for; an excuse to turn back (hopefully at Reading) from the throng? But, alas…not even coming up out of London Bridge underground into the bright warm autumnal sunshine was there a hint of what was to be.

We were told the Q (as we in the know now call it) was at Tower Bridge about 4 miles from Westminster Hall. I had done this before, in 2002 when the Queen Mother was lying in state. However then the Q was only from Westminster Bridge.

Our journey was to be 5 miles. That is explained by the very long and despondent walk out of London Bridge to see the queue snaking along the embankment. We walked down Tooley Street, met by the what was to become familiar blue tabard marshalls swinging their arms “this way, this way”. We emerged onto the embankment just past the imposing NHS Belfast to experience the first unique experience of the day…looking at and being looked at by the stock still standing sea of humanity. I make this point again later. They were all there, happily smiling, already scoffing their days sandwiches like a bunch of excited school children waiting for London Zoo to open. Backpacks, Coffees.

Anyway we marched on…and on…and on….heads now bowed to avoid the gloating eyes of the Q. Down past City Hall, past Tower Bridge and into Shad Thames…the cobles already hurting my feet. On we go and eventually find our place three quarters of the way down Shad Thames & Curlew Street where a couple of cheerful marshalls proclaimed “this is it, the end of the queue”

Now what’s one of my memorable moments of the entire day is that in that EXACT second of joining our place in history- the mood changed. Now WE were the Q and immediately looking at all the “other poor souls” who, only for 0.18 of a second had to walk past US to find their own place. I can tell you that only a couple of minutes later we lost sight of the 2 grinning marshalls and their victims as the Q had snaked round the corner towards Jamacia and onto its inevitable end point in Southwark Park. At this point we had no idea of how long we would be waiting but almost immediately we began to shuffle and realise we were now HEADING back the entire distance and to pass (an hour or so later) the exit to London Bridge Station where we had alighted.

At 11.47 we met Yvonne, a very bubbly lady who had travelled up from Bournemouth. This is a story all Q-people will tell, of new friendships forged, or teas bought, of loo places held, ice creams licked and many other deeds of heroism!

I was slightly begrudging of the fact it had cost me all of £22 to join the Q …then we met two ladies in front of us who had paid…wait for it…£600 return to come down from Newcastle.

We shuffled on – out under Tower Bridge into the sunshine of Embankment by City Hall to meet our first trial of endurance that is Potters Field Park. You see, what the sneaky, or clever, depending on how you look at it,…people of the Q-HQ (as I call them) had done was to build in the SNAKES! The Snakes? How to explain? A set of Disneyland like barriers…maybe more akin to Airport Check-in but the size of entire parks and this sort of slows the Q down and enables them to “coil us up”. In these snakes you meet the same people about 30 times as you plod up and down, up and down. You feel you can almost see and touch the end but from this point you have about half and hour to get through the park.


I never really felt like I was in the Q for the Queen until we stepped out onto the warm slabs of the embankment and peered over into the Thames under the magnificent gaze of Tower Bridge. Spirits just lifted, excited chatter ensued. Now! Now we WERE…I N  T H E  Q U E U E.

What the clever first Snake had done had now quickened things up (no..there’s no happy ending to this) but for a while between Tower and The OXO tower we were practically running along. SO thin was the line and apparent loss of interest by the famous blue marshalls that we actually got lost around the back of Cutty Sark and had to ask a shop keeper for the way. This kept up a pace and the best way I can describe the rest of the day was like the M25 slinky. Every so often you come to a stop…asking what’s happened …what’s the hold up? Only..there is no hold up…see? You just got into some sort of human Mexican wave.

At this point our tight group sort of broke up, the three of us remained. Decisions were now made in “pods”. Do we stop for a rest/portaloo/ice cream break? We had been issued coloured wrist bands and became our own enforcement team to the interlopers who thought they could sneak in. No WRISTBAND, NO ENTRY screamed the Black Govt signs strapped to posts all along the route. One very well dressed chinese couple offered us money for ours but that is the point of a queue. You sort of don’t want to be in it but once you’ve been in it for a few hours you kind of get hooked on the idea of no pasaran (they shall not pass…no surrender). It’s self- replicating torture because you are almost one step nearer your goal.

Around 1-1.30pm we reached Southbank and another injection of enthusiasm…at any time of the year South Bank is the happening place and so we were forced to stop and talk to the bemused passers by and those sitting at tables enjoying dinner de jour. We had eaten all our crisp sandwiches 2 mins after joining the queue (It’s the done thing on Zoo trips?)

So you think…London Eye…Over half way….2 pm …hey ..this was all scaremongering by the Main Steam (yes Steam) Media. We can now see Big Ben in the distance. Your brain does the algorithms. So why is this spotty little Herbert in his very blue tabard joyfully shouting “5 hours from here people…be prepared…5 hours to the doors.”

You sort of ignored him. Everyone racing for their Google Maps on Iphone and Android…no no this cannot be so. Silly little man!

But what you forget are…dum dum dum…more snakes.

So now instead of passing under the London Eye Wheel we are sent off left away from embankment on what must be a Guinness World Record Conger around the back streets of London. Boastfully, I must tell you that this is the point I was accosted by Belgian News Today (Croissant News as I called him). You see the Q is now THE event..apparently not the Queen. All along the route we, the Q, were the London attraction. And not just to the tourists..oh no…LBC, BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, Toyko news and most importantly Croissant TV were all set up in the back streets along the route with mini TV studios under gazebos to pull us crazy Q people off the line for a few minutes to ask us all the same question in 130 dialects…Why you here? What see you? How long you queue? Do you watch Croissant News?

I should point out and absolutely applaud the huge Q support team of Fire Engines dispensing water bottles, police, samaritans, priests, St Johns and NHS Ambulance Service and the sea of shops and venues who gladly opened their doors for free beverages and a sit down ..we were all in the Q.”

To be continued…

Ed James, East Garston

Why..? I don’t know really. I had always thought I would go. I had imagined it… standing on The Mall to pay my respects; not for the pomp and ceremony but, as for so many others, out of respect for someone who had given so much for so long and who was a part of our own identity. She made me think of my mum who died about 15 years ago and symbolised, as a mother does, the sense of giving and protection. Not going seemed like the wrong thing to do.


We (my wife Harriet and I) had to go to London the day before to watch an ‘Audience with Gary Barlow’ (for work purposes I hasten to add) but we had an hour to kill so made a detour to Buckingham Palace where we mingled with the crowds. We were unable to get too close and we were marshalled away from our positions. There was an air of expectancy and uncertainty as the Queen was due to arrive on her journey down from Edinburgh. We decided to leave and made our way up to Whitehall and then across Horse Guards Parade and through the arch before walking up to Trafalgar Square and onward to our destination. The mood was sombre… the streets were closed to traffic, the was a light rain and plenty of heavily armed police. I am sure the sense of foreboding was much greater when war was declared 70 odd years ago but it felt like summer had suddenly turned to autumn, a darkness had fallen – even the tall plane trees seemed to be silent…


At about 9pm the following day I was lying on the sofa watching telly, tired but agitated. I just decided there and then that I would go, I turned to my younger son and asked if he wanted to come… he asked if that meant he could skip school the following day, I said ‘maybe’, he asked if he would get sweets, I said ‘yes’ and so he replied ‘OK, I’m in’ so his ‘why’ was slightly different to mine.


We drove to Reading, caught the Elizabeth II line (which seemed apt but ended up taking 14 stops), alighted at Paddington and took a taxi to Southwark Bridge. We found The Queue snaking away from us so headed eastward to find the end which was close London Bridge (we joined at about 12.40am).

The Queue moved quite quickly, we started chatting to those around us as we passed The Clink, the Golden Hind and The Globe. The first two hours passed quickly, we were all excited and chatty, it was a warm dry night and the mood was so very different from the day before – there was coherence, people were quick to bond, there was enthusiastic anticipation in all of us…. 

Two ladies had driven up from Hampshire, one chap (a crypto trader from his bedroom) had taken the train from Prestatyn in North Wales, a post grad had come down from Norwich, Nigel and Heather had come down from Warwick (Nigel was going to a Nigel conference next month where only people called Nigel were allowed to attend. Did you know there have been no Nigel christenings in the last 2 years)? There were a couple of others in our group and we stayed together for the whole journey – bought each other coffee, shared Murray Mints and group photos and were (nearly) interviewed by Charlie Stayt on Breakfast TV.


We were heartened as we watched the sunrise illuminate the Palace of Westminster and by the sense of camaraderie and disheartened by the tales of those who met us on their way back telling us it took them 6 hours from the other side of Lambeth Bridge and by the switchback lanes on the gardens south of Westminster Hall. But we stuck together and at about 8.40am we paid our respects to The Queen with a gentle bow. 

The end was fleeting, no time for a quiet prayer or reflection but the rich colours of the pageantry remain as do our thoughts of The Queen and my own mother. For me it felt more about the whole journey rather than just the few moments in front of the catafalque. It felt as though we were a part of something, that we had shared in this moment of our history.

Friends for ever with our Queue neighbours? Perhaps not but I keep thinking about being with those people on that day, walking through the night with my 14 year old son. And yes, he did miss school the next day and I have ‘gone large’ on a cryptocurrency so it may well change my life…..


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post


For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale