On Thursday 15th September, our Creative Director, Julie London, joined the many thousands of mourners to view Her Majesty’s Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall. She wanted to share a few top tips and things she learnt from her experience:
Before you go:
1. Plan ahead and think about what you need to take with you. The government has some great advice on its website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/attending-ceremonial-events-for-the-lying-in-state-and-the-state-funeral-of-her-majesty-the-queen/her-majesty-the-queens-lying-in-state-at-the-palace-of-westminster-houses-of-parliament .
But I would recommend taking small thin layers of clothing that you can easily put on/take off depending on weather. Take a lightweight coat that will keep you warm and dry if it is cold or wet. I made the mistake of taking a smart dress coat and it proved heavy especially towards the end as I was carrying it and getting tired.
Wear comfortable flat shoes and make sure to bring plasters, as it is likely you will suffer blisters. Ladies do not wear heels, I saw one lady dressed smartly wearing stilettos give up a few hours in and end up walking barefoot for hours.
If you need medications of any description take them with you just in case you need them on the journey.
2. Check what you can and can’t bring with you. There is a heavy security section just before you enter Westminster Hall ,which is equivalent to airport security checks - you are not allowed any liquids or gels at all - this includes hand sanitisers, creams, lotions, some makeup and perfumes. If you have any of these you will have to bin them before entering and you won’t be able to retrieve them.
3. Let your friends and family know you are going, particularly if you are going alone so you can keep them updated on your queue progress and they know you are safe.
4. Follow DCMS on social media (they tweet regular updates of queue progress and positon) and on their YouTube to find out the latest position of the queue so you can find it quickly. You can also ask any of the volunteers or police officers on route and they will help guide you to it.
In the queue:
1. Embrace the experience for what it is - a moment you will remember forever and tell stories of for many years to come. It’s hard yes and long, but like a marathon when you reach the finish line you will feel proud you can say your last goodbyes to Her Majesty. Look around at the scenery, enjoy the sights of London, as well as the beautiful montages they play to the Queen on the big screens in certain locations.
2. Take photos as you go so you can look back and remember the experience and tell further generations about. Police, ambulance, fire brigade, and volunteers are often happy to pose for a quick snap with you!
3. Make friends with the people you are in the queue with, tell stories, reminisce about the queen or royal family - not only will this help time go faster, they may help save your place in the queue if you stop for refreshments or bathroom breaks, and you may just make a new best friend (like I did)!
4. Chat to the police officers and volunteers as you pass by them, they are there to help you and support you along the way and deal with any problems.
5. Take snacks and water - try not to take anything too heavy as you will be carrying it for a long time. I found small sized snacks worked best. The hardest section was the huge zig-zag queue at Victoria Tower Gardens right next to Houses of Parliament. I was thankful for a sugary drink and sweet snack at this point, to boost my energy levels ready to do the final stretch and help steady my emotions for what I was about to witness.
6. As you enter the queue you should be given a wristband which you must keep on your wrist throughout. When I joined they had run out/awaiting the next batch so we received ours a bit further along the queue. Apparently now they give your wristbands around the London Eye area.
7. If you find yourself struggling at any point, speak to the volunteers or police officers along the route, they are they to help you and will help you. There are step-free routes and accessible queuing scheme so make use of it, if you need to.
7. Just before you go through security, there is an area in which you can donate any unused and sealed food and drink to the Scouts who will donate it to the foodbanks for you. There are also general rubbish bins in this area as well.
8. When you enter Westminster Hall and you motioned to enter, try and look around at the surroundings at the amazing roof, as well of course as pay your respects to her Majesty.
You are allowed to pause at the centre to bow, curtsey or spend a few seconds praying or in quiet contemplation before moving on. There is also the opportunity to look back and bow or curtsey at the end of the hall before the exit.
9. As you exit, take a few seconds to compose or let out your emotions. I didn’t realise but as soon as you walk out the gates, all of the world’s press and tv cameras are there watching and recording you.
10. You may get asked if you would do interviews - this happens a lot particularly to those in uniforms or wearing medals. Many of the journalists are from around the world and keen to show the world the scenes and how people are feeling. I was interviewed by two French media outlets and was happy to share my experience and thoughts and feelings, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing so then just explain and they will respect your wishes.
11. Parliament Square Garden is a great place to sit down, have a rest and gather your thoughts before you leave. This is located directly across from where you exit and has many famous statues of leaders including Winston Churchill.
My top tip would be to go and join the queue as early in the morning as possible (the queues are getting bigger and longer every day in the afternoon and evening periods).
I joined the queue at Winchester Palace at 08:02am on Thursday. I reached Westminster Hall at 13:50pm on Thursday - total time of around 5 hours and 45 minutes. The longest and hardest stretch was the Victoria Tower Gardens, the ground was uneven on these hard rubber grids they put down on top of the grass. This section alone took two hours to get through. However, there are plenty of toilets here and staff including Faith teams to help you in any way you may need it.
The experience I had, although exhausting and highly emotional, was one that will live with me for a lifetime and left me feeling very proud of not only our Queen but all those services and forces that worked so hard to organise the best event I’ve been to in London.
Thank you to all those who volunteered or patrolled helping us along the way and keeping us safe.