‘I cried when I saw her’: the first mourners see the Queen lying in state

Visitors have been overwhelmed by the silence and atmosphere in the ancient Westminster Hall

The first mourners to see the Queen lying in state have told how they were overcome with emotion as they paid their respects.

Some doffed their hats, others said prayers and shed tears, while one woman said she wanted to sing Ave Maria.

Vanessa Nathakumaran was the first person to file past the coffin in the ancient Westminster Hall. The 56-year-old Londoner, who queued from 11.30am on Monday, said she tried not to cry as the extraordinary scene hit her.

“It was an emotional experience. I was fighting back tears as I approached the coffin and I managed to dignify myself,” she said. “I wanted to do something so I said prayers for the Queen, thanked her for her great service and wished her peace and rest.

“I’m from London so I felt like I was leading the crowd as I was the first in the queue. It’s a unique and an historic moment and I wanted to pay my respects so it was well worth waiting for.”

Anne Daley, the second person in the queue, described it as a “shattering and incredibly upsetting” experience. She said she was moved by the setting and seeing the Queen’s coffin draped in the Royal Standard, with the Imperial State Crown and flowers on top.

The 65-year-old from Cardiff, added: “It was total silence, you felt like singing Ave Maria, it was that kind of atmosphere. It was just for seconds but the wait was totally worth it.”

Monica Farag joined the queue on Wednesday morning and was the tenth in line. Clutching a white feather, the 61-year-old said: “No words can describe the feelings I had in that moment in there just now.

“It was just a few seconds but it was a wonderful feeling and very solemn.

“To complete it, as I stepped outside, a bird dropped a small, white feather, which I have kept.”

Fighting back tears, she added: “‘As a Catholic, I did a sign of the cross and said my little prayer and did a curtsey.

“It was well worth the wait and all the rain. It was very sad but absolutely wonderful.”

Delroy Morrison, 61, from Wembley, was the fourth person in the queue. He described the experience as “overwhelming”.

“I was very emotional,” he said. “I was so nervous when I approached the coffin. I took my hat off to her and said to my Queen ‘you’ve done a good job, right to the end’ and I bowed again.”

Pointing to his stomach, he added: “I had a butterfly right here. It was overwhelming, but it was quick and it didn’t linger.

Delroy Morrison.
Delroy Morrison. Photograph: Handout

“Spending a couple of nights outside in bad weather is nothing compared to her 70 years of service. It was worth it. My Queen is gone and she’s not coming back, I was very upset.

“I’m pleased that the memory will be there for my family too. My grandchildren can say: ‘My grandad was there.’ I am really proud.”

He added that he was bowled over by the splendour of Westminster Hall, saying: “It was beautiful, I almost tripped up on the stairs because I was looking at the ceiling at the beautiful woodwork.”

Nina Kristofferson, a lecturer at the University of Surrey, also shed tears. “It was just really emotional, the grandness of the whole experience, the regality, the stillness, and the solemnity,” the 40-year-old from Finchley said.

“I cried when I saw her because it’s final. It makes you choke, that’s what grabs you. You’re also bowled over by the grandness of the experience – the coffin draped with the flag, the crown and the guards.

“When I got to the coffin, I took my hat off and said a few moments of prayer, it was emotional and I was crying. It was an opportunity to say thank you. To take the moment in and say thank you for 70 years. It’s a thankless job, but she was so gracious about it.

Nina Kristofferson.
Nina Kristofferson. Photograph: Handout

“She was very much a Queen of the people, and the emotion of her legacy – both good and bad – overcame me. My family history is tied up my in it, they are part of the Windrush generation, they came from Jamaica, and the Queen loved going to Jamaica and the islands, and in turn a lot of us feel the same about her. It’s an honour to have her come to your country and to share what that means for her.”

Max Hoene, 23, who travelled all the way from Cologne, Germany, said: “It was very emotional. She was just one of the most impressive people in history. She was an idol of mine,” he said. “She was such a small person but bigger than all of us. We won’t have anyone like her any more.”

Melissa Di Roma, 34, from Italy, wept as she left the hall. “I just waited for so long just to see, meet her. It’s an honour to be here in the UK, part of this.

“I moved to the UK for the Queen, actually. I live in Brighton. For this big occasion I worked all day yesterday and then I took the train and then I arrived at midnight, and since then I’ve been queueing for this honour, just to say thank you and good bye.”

Mark O’Shanahan from Cork said one person fainted as the first mourners to pay tribute to the Queen were kept in Westminster Gardens for two hours.

The 59-year-old, who was seventh in line, said: “The room is vast, it could be described as an aircraft hangar it is so vast.

“It took a good two hours to get through all the security and all the protocol. It was taken more seriously than airport security.”


Emine Sinmaz

The GuardianTramp

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