The Queen's Funeral: My Personal Experience
I have been quite lucky to have seen The Queen and the Royal Family three times in the last few years- first during the Queen's Golden Jubillee and subsequently twice in the last five years at Trooping the Colour. And having lived a few minutes walk away from Buckingham Palace for over five years, I had the immense pleasure of running past one of the most famous buildings in the world on most weekends during my morning runs. No matter how many times I have seen the Palace, until now, I still can't help but take a snap of this momentous building whenever I pass by. The Buckingham Palace became my favourite subject when I was trying to experiment on photography, taking photos of the building from different angles. Needless to say that this place has become a very special part of my Central London life.
That's why when I heard of Our Majesty's passing, I knew that I had to pay respect one way or another. Hence, that Saturday following her death, I went to the Palace at sunrise to do just that. I intentionally went there very early to avoid the crowd and so that I could run after. The experience was quite surreal. There were already people outside the Palace, laying flowers for The Queen. By this time, the tribute area has been moved to Green Park. They were no longer allowing the public to leave flowers outside the Palace. There was chillness in the early morning air, but the sadness in the surrounding was more perceptible.
Four days later, The Queen's Lying-in-State commenced. I was very tempted to go, and wished that we still lived in Central London so I could have gone at midnight. However, the queue went longer as the days passed, so I decided not to go at all. But I was not going to miss her funeral.
The last time I saw The Queen in person, it was at the Trooping The Colour (The Queen's Annual Birthday Parade) in 2019. I was finishing my morning run but decided to hang out at The Mall and waited for the parade. I waited for at least three hours at that time, so I knew I was going to wait longer at her funeral.
So, I arrived in Constitution Hill around 0715. I chose Constitution Hill because I knew that there would only be single barricades in the area unlike in The Mall. This meant better view of the procession. As expected, the area was already largely packed. Luckily, I found a good spot midway to Wellington Arch, where the procession would end. Three lovely ladies were kind enough to allow me to join their group.
From 0715 to almost 1200, the crowd waited patiently for the procession. Some people brought their breakfast at the venue. I spotted people who brought a box of Kelogg's cornflakes, some waffles and a bowl of porridge. But that morning also opened my eyes to a lot of different breakfast habits. As early as 0715, some people were eating crisps, French fries, cookies and cakes. Some people brought hot drinks, others queued up for two hours to get a cup of coffee in Green Park. A lot of people came prepared of course (someone even brought a box of tampax), however there were no signs that people slept in that area overnight. All of the overnighters slept in The Mall I think. I was in my running clothes and I had nothing to sit on. I thought I was going to manage to stand up for five hours, however, my feet started to feel numb after two hours. Luckily, the ladies were kind enough to share the coat that they were sitting on. So, there I was sat on the ground, on my mobile, chatting to a friend who didn't believe I actually went to watch The Queen's funeral procession.
At around 0730, the members of the Metropolitan Police started marching to their posts. People cheered on them. The atmosphere at this point was light and kind of joyful. I could hear people talking fondly of The Queen like they knew her personally. Some shared their experiences in meeting The Queen many years ago. Some talked about the hats that the Met Police was wearing and what they meant. Others were videocalling with their families, wishing that they were there.
When the Westminster Abbey finally opened at 0800, people tuned in to BBC to watch The Queen's coffin taken in procession from the Palace of Westminster to Westminster Abbey, and subsequently the funeral service. The radio in Green Park was turned on. One of the ladies I was with connected her mobile to a power bank so we could all watch on her mobile. The mood suddenly changed. People became silent and somewhat reflective. Some people started to tear up. There were so many "awws", "bless" and "this is sad" comments.
Then the British National Anthem, "God Save The King" played on the radio. Everyone around me sang with emotion. Soon after, the service finished and the procession began. At this point, everyone was back on their feet. We were lucky to be behind of only two people. The Met Police in front of us served as our onlooker, at times, other people's mobile phones. As soon as we heard the beat of the drum, we knew the procession was approaching.
March music was played by members of the Irish and Scottish regiments, the Bridage of Gurkhas and the Royal Air Force ahead of The Queen's coffin. Minute guns were fired from the nearby Hyde Park. Soldiers marched with their rifles reversed as a sign of respect.
Approximately 142 Royal Navy Sailors pulled the gun carriage that carried The Queen's coffin. When the carriage approached the area where we were standing, everyone became emotional. It was surreal seeing the Queen's coffin draped in The Royal Standard Flag, her crown, sceptre and orb on top. The coffin was followed by members of The Royal Family, grief evident on their faces.
It was a privilege for me to have witnessed a moment of history. Growing up, I only knew The Queen through the television and the nursery rhyme, " Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat Where Have You Been?". To physically be there at her funeral procession, sharing my grief with strangers, is an experience I will never forget. Her Majesty, who in 70 years has shown nothing but resilience and grace despite the many uncertainties she experienced throughout her reign- war, recessions, a global pandemic, family scandals and personal loses. She was indeed an epitome of a remarkable leader. We will never have a Queen like her ever again.