Queuing to say farewell to the King

For some 20 minutes this evening Queen Mary, the Duke of Windsor, and the Princess Royal stood with bowed heads in the great hall of Westminster near the coffin of the King.  Queen Mary, her white handkerchief held to her face, wept as the ceaseless line of people continued to file down the east side of the Hall.  The Duke, holding his black silk top hat, stood to her left: the Princess Royal to her right.

The royal party had arrived at 7.20, taking by surprise the thousands of people thronging Parliament Square and the 100-yard queue of M.P.s and their parties, formed up in Palace Yard by the canopied entrance through which the coffin had been borne.

At 10.15 on the evening of Wednesday 13th February 1952, a long queue of people standing 10 or more abreast, waited patiently to see the King’s lying-in-state.  As the crowd increased by more than 100 a minute instructions came from the Lord Great Chamberlain’s office for the police to cordon off the end of that long queue.  Hundreds went away.

10 minutes later – after police officials had pointed out that radio and newspaper had announced midnight as the “closure” hour – a new order came through:–

‘Reverse decision; reopen queue until midnight.’

Loudspeaker vans went out with the news and many re-joined the queue.  The last person to join the queue before the police closed it for the night was an 18 year-old student nurse.

By 2 a.m. it was stated that 99,207 people had passed through the Hall making 175,533 for the two days.  However – there was still some 12,000 in the queue which extended beyond Lambeth Bridge,


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