LONDON (AP) — A surging tide of people — ranging from London retirees to former England soccer captain David Beckham — have lined up to file past Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin as it lies in state at Parliament, so many that authorities on Friday had to call a temporary halt to more people joining the miles-long queue.
By late afternoon, a live tracker of the queue to get into historic Westminster Hall said it had reopened, but the British government warned that the waiting time to cover the 5 miles (8 kilometers) from the start of the line in Southwark Park to Parliament had climbed to more than 24 hours. The government also warned that “overnight temperatures will be cold.”
King Charles III and his siblings will be standing vigil around the flag-draped coffin on Friday evening.
Beckham was spotted in the line of mourners near Britain’s Houses of Parliament at lunchtime Friday. He’s believed to have joined the queue at 2 a.m. and to have lined up for more than 10 hours with thousands of others.
Wearing a white shirt and black tie, he bowed briefly to the coffin before moving out of Westminster Hall.
“We have been lucky as a nation to have had someone who has led us the way her majesty has led us, for the amount of time, with kindness, with caring and always reassuring,” Beckham said. “I think that’s the one thing that we all felt safe and we will continue that with the royal family. But I think (her) majesty was someone special and will be missed, not just by everyone in our country but everyone around the world.”
Helena Larsen, 76, arrived just too late at the park.
“We have literally got here and they have shut it in front of us,” she said, adding that she would likely hang around the area until the gates were reopened.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said viewing the queen’s coffin lying in state was an unforgettable experience.
“You’re in Westminster Hall in her presence, with a crown on top of her coffin, and it’s incredibly emotional,” he told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Chinese officials reportedly was barred from visiting the historic hall in the Houses of Parliament where the late queen’s coffin is lying, as geopolitics cast a shadow over the solemn pageantry surrounding the monarch’s death.
The Chinese ambassador to the U.K. has been banned from Parliament for a year after Beijing sanctioned seven British legislators last year for speaking out against China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority in the far-west Xinjiang region.
The office of House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle declined to comment Friday on a report by American news outlet Politico saying the Chinese delegation would not be allowed into Westminster Hall. Prime Minister Liz Truss’s office also declined to comment.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said she had not seen the Politico report but that as host of the queen’s funeral, the U.K. government should “follow the diplomatic protocols and proper manners to receive guests.”
A Chinese delegation is expected to attend the queen’s Monday funeral, which is in Westminster Abbey church and not Parliament. Organizers of the funeral have not published a guest list and it was unclear who from China might attend.
The sanctioned British legislators wrote to officials this week to express concerns about the Chinese government having been invited to send representatives to the queen’s state funeral.
After a day out of the public eye on Thursday, King Charles III flew to Wales on Friday on the final leg of his tour of the nations that make up the United Kingdom.
Charles, who for decades before his accession to the throne was the Prince of Wales, visited Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff for a service of prayer and reflection in honor of his late mother. After the service he and Camilla, the Queen Consort, greeted crowds of wellwishers, including flag-waving schoolchildren as people chanted “God save the king!”
A small group protested the visit, one of them holding up a banner saying: “King? No thanks.”
The king later traveled to the Welsh parliament, the Senedd, to receive condolences from legislators and replied to them, telling members of the parliament that Wales “could not have been closer to my mother’s heart.”
Charles said he felt “immense gratitude for the privilege” of serving for decades as Prince of Wales, the title traditionally bestowed on the heir to the throne. Prince William now has that title.
Charles returns to London later Friday and will briefly stand vigil at his mother’s coffin in the evening with his siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.
Before the vigil, Edward said the royal family had been “overwhelmed by the tide of emotion that has engulfed us and the sheer number of people who have gone out of their way to express their own love, admiration and respect” for “our dear mama.”
A day later, all eight of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren are expected to stand vigil beside her coffin for 15 minutes.
Charles’ sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, will attend the vigil along with Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and the children of Prince Edward – Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn.
William, who after his grandmother’s death is now the heir to the throne, will stand at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both princes, who are military veterans, will be in uniform.
Most senior royals hold honorary military roles and have worn uniforms at events to commemorate the queen. Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British army officer, wore civilian clothes during the procession of the queen’s coffin from Buckingham Palace because he is no longer a working member of the royal family. He and his wife Meghan quit royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020.
The king requested that both William and Harry wear their uniforms at the Westminster Hall vigil.
London police said Friday that the queen’s state funeral on Monday will be the largest single policing event the force has ever handled.
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the massive police operation surpasses even that for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as well as the celebrations earlier this year of the queen’s 70 years on the throne.
“The range of officers, police staff and all those supporting the operation is truly immense,” he said.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)