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Thousands gather to pay respects as Queen Elizabeth II lies in state at Westminster Hall

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By Andrea Carlo  with AP
Members of the public file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, inside Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster, in London on 14 September 2022
Members of the public file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, inside Westminster Hall, at the Palace of Westminster, in London on 14 September 2022   -   Copyright  Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP   -  

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II left Buckingham Palace for the last time Wednesday in a 38-minute long procession to Westminster Hall.

The coffin was carried by a horse-drawn carriage through London’s flag-draped streets, which saw massive crowds flocking to watch the solemn occasion.

The late Queen’s son King Charles III marched together with his siblings and sons behind the coffin topped by a wreath of white roses as her crown rested on a purple velvet pillow.

Eight pallbearers carried the oak and lead-lined coffin into Westminster Hall, placing it on a raised platform known as a catafalque.

The Queen will lie in state for four days until her funeral Monday, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to file past.

The procession’s majestic setting, amid the UK capital’s most iconic landmarks, was designed to highlight Queen Elizabeth II’s seven decades as head of state, which makes her reign the longest in British history.

Those present -- many of whom had waited for hours -- held up their phones to record the procession, with some wiping away tears.

Applause broke out as the coffin passed through Horse Guards Parade.

At the procession’s final destination, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led a service attended by the royal family.

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you,” Welby read from the New Testament's Book of John.

Thousands had queued up along the banks of the River Thames, waiting their turn to enter the hall and pay their respects.

Such scenes are a manifestation of a collective sense of bereavement felt by many Britons, the majority of whom were born after the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952.

A ten-day mourning period has been announced by the UK government, which will end the day after Elizabeth’s funeral on 19 September. 

It has resulted in a variety of event cancellations and temporary closures of businesses and facilities.

Some of these measures have sparked controversy, especially as certain anti-monarchist demonstrators have been threatened with arrest.

One lawyer, Paul Powlesland, held a piece of paper in protest this Monday to draw attention to what he felt had become increasingly draconian measures by the police.

The overall national mood, nonetheless, is one of reflection and grief.

“I have 1,001 emotions when I see her,” said Chris Imafidon, one of the mourners present. “I want to say, God, she was an angel because she touched many good people and did so many good things.”