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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 02:33 GMT 03:33 UK
Thousands honour Queen Mother
Mourners file past the Queen Mother's coffin
The number of mourners has taken officials by surprise
Thousands of mourners have queued for up to six hours to pay their respects to the Queen Mother as she lies in state in Westminster Hall.

By mid-evening on Friday about 25,000 people had already filed past her coffin, after waiting in a line which grew to two-and-a-half miles long.

Officials scrapped plans to limit public viewing to a four-hour period on Friday and promised the hall will remain open for as long as people continue to queue.

Earlier an estimated 400,000 people turned out to watch the Queen Mother's coffin as it was carried through central London, in the biggest display of pageantry for a generation.

  Click here for full audio and video coverage

The hall opened to the public at 1400 BST on Friday, but visitors had been gathering outside since early morning.

Tony Blair and other political leaders inside Westminster Hall
Tony Blair and other political leaders filed past the coffin
A spokeswoman for Black Rod's office in the House of Lords said Westminster Hall would remain open, except for a break for security and cleaning between 0600 and 0800 BST on Saturday.

The Metropolitan Police are offering up-to-the-minute information on queuing times on 0207 593 7851.

Tight security

The Dean of Westminster, Dr Wesley Carr, said he was struck by the sombre mood of those waiting to enter the hall.

It was "remarkable" that such a large number of people were so silent, he added.

"I think probably what has happened is people have been waiting for it to become real.

"People at last have realised she really is dead and there's someone to remember."

Visitors are having to pass through tight security and are also able to sign a book of condolence.

The coffin is standing on a seven-foot high catafalque, draped in the Queen Mother's personal standard and surmounted by her diamond-encrusted crown.

It is also topped with a single wreath of white roses and freesias from the Queen, reading 'In Loving Memory, Lilibet'.

Four officers of the Household Cavalry are standing vigil at the four corners of the coffin.

Part of the floor of the ancient hall, completed in 1099, has been laid with carpeting to muffle the tread of those filing past.

Applause for Queen

The Queen Mother will lie in state until Tuesday, when the coffin will be taken to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.

The morning funeral procession was the biggest display of pageantry in the UK since the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.

Line-up behind the coffin
Members of the Royal Family followed the coffin
Lying in state
  • The Queen Mother will lie in state until Monday evening
  • Westminster Hall is open from 1400 BST on Friday
  • The hall is more than 900-years-old

      Find out more

  • Three generations of the Royal Family and 1,700 armed forces personnel took part in the 30-minute parade from St James's Palace.

    The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princes William and Harry led the mourners behind the gun carriage, with Princess Anne and nine other senior members of the Royal Family.

    The teenage princes were bare-headed and dressed in morning suits, in contrast to other family members in their military uniforms.

    Behind the family were members of the Queen Mother's personal staff, including her loyal page William Tallon, known affectionately as "Backstairs Billy".

    A military band played Beethoven's Funeral March as the half-mile long procession made its way down the Mall, and a 28-gun salute was fired from nearby Green Park.

    The Queen entering Westminster Hall
    The Queen did not join the procession but led the mourners at Westminster Hall
    The Queen, dressed in black, did not join the procession, but went to Westminster Hall to lead mourners at the prayer service marking the beginning of the lying-in-state.

    MPs, headed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, members of the House of Lords including Baroness Thatcher, and many other VIPs, including Commonwealth representatives, were also at the hall.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey said two prayers, giving thanks for the Queen Mother's "faithful duty and unwearied service" and asking God to "deal graciously with those who mourn".

    The Queen was visibly moved when a smattering of applause broke out as she was later driven back to Windsor Castle.

    The BBC's Jennie Bond
    "On Monday evening there will be a final tribute from har Grandsons"
    The BBC's John Sudworth in Westminster
    "We could expect large crowds again"
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