FROM the night before they queued to pay their final respects to a grandmother, public servant, a boss and the Queen.

The streets around Westminster Abbey were thronged with people pitching tents from late afternoon on Sunday and by the early hours of yesterday morning officials were preparing to close the viewing area as the number of mourners swelled.

Even before dawn it was difficult to find any spare spot on the packed pavements as London prepared to bid farewell to the monarch who had served them for seven decades.

As the sun rose it shone on a throng of well wishers who had stayed awake all night to be ready for this historic moment.

Away from Parliament and the route the Queen's cortege would take later in the day, the streets were empty and store fronts largely shuttered, a heavy mood resting on the centre of the city.


Tents in London

Tents near Westminster Abbey in London


The Westminster viewing area was finally closed to newcomers around 9am and the crowds were diverted in one flowing mass to Hyde Park where large screens had been erected to allow mourners to gather and pay their respects together.

Inside the park families picnicked on the grass while a crowd of tens of thousands stood transfixed by Her Majesty's funeral.

Nicola Deadman and Erem Mehmed almost didn't make it to Hyde Park after Mr Mehmed fainted in the packed crowds around the viewing area near Westminster Abbey.

"I thought I was going to be watching it from a hospital room," Ms Deadman said.

But Mr Mehmed rallied and was determined not to miss out on the historic event.

Both self-described "proud Londoners", they wanted to share the day with others.

Ms Deadman said: "I needed to be part of the atmosphere and because we're from London it's an even bigger thing to us.

Ms Deadman should have been on holiday in Spain this week but when her flights were cancelled she took it as a sign to stay in London and commemorate the passing of Queen Elizabeth.

Last week she travelled to the Mall to see the Queen's cortege as the monarch left Buckingham Palace for the final time.

She added:"It was a very surreal experience, very emotional. Being from London the Queen was a normal part of everyday life and it's hard to know she's gone. Today needs to be done before that really sinks in."

Mr Mehmed added: "You're watching on the screen but you know it's all going on right outside and that's very special."

Andrew Kerray and Terry Stockdale travelled from Liverpool to feel they were in the heart of proceedings.


Mourners at Hyde Park

Andrew Kerray and Terry Stockdale


Both men are veterans of 1st Battalion the Queen’s Own Highlanders and have friends who were taking part in the procession today with the pipes and drums.

Mr Kerray said: “We both served but I was brought up with the royal family and we felt that if we didn’t come down then you would regret it for the rest of your life.

“We’re here for love for the royal family, love for our country and love for the Queen.”

The men had tried to get closer to Westminster Abbey but the streets had filled up and the area been closed off.

Mr Kerray added: “We should have come down earlier and slept out - we’ve slept in worse places.

“But the atmosphere here in the park is still really important to be part of.”

There was very little chatter as people stood transfixed by the funeral service in front of them, and the readings and choral music that echoed around the royal park.

The two minute silence passed in pin-drop quiet, the only ambient sound birdsong and the occasional bark of a dog.

The sun came out, shining hotly on those standing with heads bowed.

The weather across the weekend has played an almost animated part in proceedings, providing a rainbow over Westminster Abbey on Sunday night and perfect sunshine for the funeral service.

As the funeral drew to a close, the minute gun began sounding as Big Ben rang out, a solemn soundtrack for the vast crowds.

Even when the service was over and the screens showing the procession, people were reluctant to move and break the spell that had settled.

Adam Kerr had come to London from Coventry.

His father, who was from Leith, was in the Scots Guards and then the Queen’s Guards, and he felt it was important to represent his late mother and father by paying his respects in person - and wearing his kilt in Kerr family tartan.

Becoming emotional, Mr Kerr said the two minute silence had been a profound experience.

He said: “I think it was important to be here and I’m here out of respect for the Queen and my mother and father.

“I’m glad I travelled here, I’m glad I’ve come and done what I needed to today.

“She’s been given a fantastic send off and how could you not be here to see it?

“It was very emotional.

“Towards the end it kind of got to me, during the two minute silence.

“You have to respect all that she’s done. “There won’t be another like her.


From being gripped by the vastness and pomp of the ceremony, the atmosphere around the Mall became cheerful as people began to move off after the funeral.

On Clarges Street in Mayfair, an entrepreneur tried to make the most of the occasion - by charging pounds to spend a penny.

A sign pinned to a window read: "£3 for the toilet, ring buzzer 4."


A sign in London

A sign offering toilet facilities 


Whether anyone rang or not remains undisclosed but business generally returned quickly to normal.

Around the Mall people milled together making plans for the rest of the day as streets reopened and police herded folk away through one-way systems and along side streets.

After days of mourning, Londoners are well used to queues and allowed themselves to be corralled with very little fuss.

Megan Coffey came with three friends from the east end of London to see the funeral procession move from the Abbey on its journey to Windsor Castle.

It didn’t quite work out as planned but she said they were still pleased to come to the heart of the action.

She said: “In the end we couldn’t see a thing as the street was so busy - we just didn’t get there early enough.

“But I’m glad we made the effort.

“I hate to say there’s a buzz about but it’s so busy, the helicopters are circling overhead and people are jumping to look every time a blacked out Range Rover goes past so it still feels exciting.

“Like a lot of Londoners, it’s pub now.

“That’s another tradition we can stick to, raising a glass for Her Majesty and another for our new King.”