Mourning and Camaraderie in the Queue to See the Queen

“The English are the best queuers in the world,” the photographer Matt Stuart said, after several days shooting footage for his documentary, “Her Majesty’s Queue,” about the line of mourners that wound through London in the days leading up to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, on Monday. “It’s been very well organized,” he observed, and everyone was on their best behavior. Though their purpose was solemn, the queuers were mostly jolly, chatting with neighbors about their memories and impressions of the monarch.

On Thursday, Sam Knight reported from the queue, and spoke with several people who had journeyed to London to see the Queen lying in state. He reflected on the history and significance of the pageantry surrounding Queen Elizabeth II’s passing:

The tradition of a monarch lying in state is a twentieth-century
invention. It is a way for the population to pay its respect—to
reaffirm its submission to an ancient and unequal way of doing
things—and, in return, to claim a moment of history for ourselves.

Stuart, who is British but now lives in the Netherlands (he jokingly calls himself a “Brexit refugee”) said that waiting in the queue is both an act of respect and a test of endurance. The weather in London was gorgeous, at the cusp of summer and autumn when it’s warm in the sun and chilly in the shadows. Still, Stuart said, it was clear that the people spending hours walking through the city were making a pilgrimage. The line stretched to several miles long. ♦

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