Hundreds of thousands expected to pay last respects to Queen Elizabeth II in London

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By Euronews  with AFP
A man walks by a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II during a rainfall in central London, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022
A man walks by a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II during a rainfall in central London, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pay their last respects to Queen Elizabeth II from Wednesday, when the former monarch's coffin lies in state in London. 

The coffin of the queen, who died last Thursday at 96, returned to the British capital on Tuesday evening,  making its way from Scotland through a rainy London as crowds lined the route to bid the Queen a final farewell.

People waved as the hearse, with lights inside illuminating the flag-draped coffin, made its way into London after the Queen arrived from her final voyage from Edinburgh to the capital by plane.

Thousands gathered outside the palace clapped as the hearse swung around a roundabout in front of the Queen's official residence and through the wrought iron gates. King Charles III and other royals waited to greet the casket.

After a night at Buckingham Palace, the coffin will be taken to Westminster Hall on Wednesday, the oldest chamber of the British Parliament, after a solemn procession through central London. The coffin will be carried on a gun carriage of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery to the Palace of Westminster. 

For nearly five days, from Wednesday at 16:00 GMT, until Monday morning at 06:30 on the day of the state funeral, well-wishers will be able to come and pay their last respects to their sovereign who reigned for more than 70 years. 

The hall will be open around the clock, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected, with queues likely to stretch for several kilometres. 

Elizabeth II's coffin was already on display from Monday night to Tuesday in Edinburgh's St Giles' Cathedral where more than 30,000 people waited for hours, sometimes moved to tears, to pay their respects to the coffin, which was covered with the royal flag and the Scottish crown.

A rock of stability in the political, social and health storms of COVID-19, the Queen was a reassuring image for millions of Britons during her decades on the throne.

On Tuesday evening, Princess Anne, Elizabeth II's only daughter, accompanied her coffin on the plane from Edinburgh to London. The new King Charles III, Elizabeth's eldest son, was on hand to welcome the body on its arrival at Buckingham Palace, after spending the day in Northern Ireland, a delicate stage in his accession to the throne.

Princess Anne released a short but heartfelt statement saying she was "fortunate to share the last 24 hours of my dearest Mother's life." 

Meanwhile King Charles has been visiting Edinburgh and Belfast as part of his new duties. On Friday he will visit Cardiff in Wales on the final stop of his four-nation tour. 

The king's popularity has soared since he took the throne, according to a YouGov poll published on Tuesday. 

Three in five people think he will make a good king, compared with just over 30% a few months ago.