BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
A grand and solemn day
The procession carrying the coffin of the Queen Mother to Westminster Abbey
Crowds lined the path of the funeral procession

Many of those outside Westminster Abbey had waited for hours - some for days - to witness the funeral of the Queen Mother. Yet the cold and the crush merely added to the occasion.

It was just as the Queen had requested - sadness combined with a sense of thanksgiving.

A police officer takes a photo for a member of the public
A policeman takes a photo for a member of the public
At a time of day when Londoners, famed for their reserve and aloofness, were battling the morning rush hour, in the heart of the capital strangers were striking up conversations with one another.

They had come to witness the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, at Westminster Abbey.

The hardcore had already spent the night camped out around Parliament Square in near freezing temperatures.

Compared to them John Salisbury was a relative late-comer. Having finished his shift at 0300, the London Underground electrician had headed straight for the square.

John Salisbury
John Salisbury: "What a wonderful human being"
He staked out a place opposite the abbey's north entrance and spent the small hours chatting to fellow mourners.

"All the kids were asleep, but the adults were up and walking about. It was a good atmosphere. We talked a lot about the Queen Mum and what a wonderful human being she was.

"It is a sad occasion but on the other hand because she had a good life, it's not like her death is tragic."

Tea and sympathy

By 0930 - two hours before the start of the funeral - the crowds at the best vantage points were several deep.

Crowds in Parliament Square
The crowd thickens as the procession passes
But instead of restlessness, there was a mood of anticipation - excitement even - at the display of pageantry that was about to unfold.

Cold hands clasped plastic flask cups of hot tea and coffee, children sat at their parents' feet playing Gameboys, some flicked through the morning papers and others posed for snapshots in front of Big Ben.

As the numbers behind the temporary barriers swelled, onlookers sought out anything that could offer a bit more height. Several balanced themselves on statue plinths.

Onlookers with stools to see above the crowds
Straining to see outside the abbey
Against the hubbub, a lone tenor bell inside the abbey tolled every minute - representing the 101 years of the Queen Mother's life.

In the middle of it all stood seven-year-old Katherine Thompson and her mother Karen. All they could see was a wall of backs, but that was no cause for complaint.

"It's a day of history that we've come for," said Ms Thompson, from Hartford in East Sussex.

"Even if we don't see very much, it's not important. I wanted Katherine to experience this."

Getting emotional

Gill Woodhouse and Shelagh England had travelled together from Buckinghamshire to show their support for the Royal Family.

Gill Woodhouse and Shelagh England
Gill Woodhouse, left, and Shelagh England
They were in high spirits and keen to voice their support for Queen and country.

"The Royal Family means Britain," said Ms England. "It's the epitome of Britishness. This has been a difficult time for them but they have come out of it as true human beings."

And they were expecting to shed a tear or two as the funeral service was broadcast, via loudspeaker, to those outside the abbey.

"I had a lump in my throat when I saw the four grandsons standing at the corners of her coffin yesterday," said Ms Woodhouse.

Saluting the coffin
Pallbearers carry their precious burden
Towards Whitehall the crowds thinned to a trickle. Those lined up against the barriers could only expect a brief glimpse of the funeral cortege as it glided past following the end of the service.

By 1100, the high spirits around Westminster Hall had turned to sombre reflection as the start of the official proceedings neared.

Sobriety had set in. As the coffin was pulled on a horse-drawn gun carriage past the crowds and towards the west door of the abbey, observers fell silent.

After the hours of waiting, now was the time for sadness.

Key stories

Funeral ceremonies


In pictures



Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |