Queen’s state funeral: My experience in central London

It was at around 12.30pm on September 8 when Buckingham Palace released a statement that shook the nation.

“The Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health”, it read, as panic spread like wildfire for our beloved monarch.

I went straight to Buckingham Palace and reported on the mood as the world awaited updates.

A sombre atmosphere, seas of umbrellas and torrential rain, crowds which proliferated as the afternoon turned to evening, and a growing sea of colour, emotion and unity as floral tributes took over.

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The most poignant moment for me was seeing two rainbows shine above the palace just after the death of the Queen had been announced – a sight dubbed by many as Her late Majesty and her beloved husband Prince Phillip’s reunion.

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On the morning of The Queen’s state funeral, like hundreds of thousands of other Londoners, I headed into the centre of the capital in an attempt to grab any glimpse of the proceedings, the procession, the Royals or the coffin.

I didn’t camp out, nor did I get up unearthly early, but I headed on the tube to Green Park station at around 9am to see where I could get to.

The tube was relatively quiet, which surprised me, and when I got off the train Green Park station was exit-only and all areas surrounding the Palace were full of onlookers and closed off.

Like a herd of sheep, I was among thousands who were then directed by praise-deserving security staff and police along the back streets of central London to Hyde Park.

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Here, the funeral was being shown on big screens.

It was almost impossible to believe at the time but the atmosphere was calm, voices were at indoor level, and everyone was patient, understanding and kind.

In what I could only have imagined beforehand as being scenes of chaos, I can pretty confidently assume that there would be no other time where thousands of gathering people in central London would have had such decorum.

Instead of going as directed by officers to the screens in Hyde Park, I found myself in an open bit of pavement nearby, and somehow right at the front of a crowd against one of the grey barriers which were lining the streets of London.

My view: a Metropolitan Police officer and the screen at Hyde Park Corner entrance.

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We stood like sardines while the funeral took place, with not enough signal to watch on our phones, but every single person who surrounded me was calm, patient, and respectful as we heard the sounds of the ceremony in the distance.

Hearing a pin drop in the centre of any city is something to be surprised at, but when the clock hit 11.55am – London fell completely silent, for perhaps one of the only times it ever will.

The unanimous jump in fright followed by sigh of relief with the cannons started to fire was reassuring, and watching numerous horses and soldiers pass on the road in front of me was mesmerising.

Then, after two and a half hours of waiting, it was just before around 1.40pm when the hearse carrying Her late Majesty the Queen’s coffin drove beside me, followed by blacked out Range Rovers in which I spotted Princess Anne.

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I couldn’t help but shake as I filmed on my phone what I could see.

The country has been in mourning for 10 days, the Queen has been spoken of and thought about, her reign reflected upon, The King and the Royal Family admired, but there was nothing that quite made it feel as real as watching her coffin pass me within reaching distance on its way to be laid to rest.

Some shed tears, others held loved ones tight.

On my way to get home, I passed The King’s Arms pub which is in Mayfair and near to Buckingham Palace.

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It was around 2.30pm, and the place was surrounded by queues and punters – the British public were back doing what they did best – all in memory of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

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