Mourners made a desperate final dash to join the queue for the Queen’s lying-in-state on Sunday as officials prepared to close it.
Thousands of people defied a warning from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport urging people to stop joining the 14-hour line.
Families were seen sprinting from Bermondsey tube station on Sunday afternoon in a frantic bid to join the end of the five-mile queue in Southwark Park, south London.
“We ran here from church because it’s the last day,” said Amala Soni as she struggled to catch her breath.
The 39-year-old was joined by her husband, Gaurav, 40, and children Ryan, 10, and Ivaan, six, who had come prepared with chairs, biscuits and plenty of fruit.
“It means a lot to us because I come from India but I’ve settled down in the UK and I feel loyal to the Queen. I think it’s a privilege to be part of this moment. We really wanted to be here and we heard it was closing so we sprinted,” Amala added.
The Queen’s lying-in-state period ends at 6.30am on Monday, but the queue is likely to close some hours before then.
Mourners continued to make the pilgrimage across central London over Saturday night and into Sunday afternoon.
Clutching blankets and cups of coffee, they told how they travelled from across the country to join the line, with some even making their second trip.
Philomena Groome, 56, from Surbiton, south-west London, first joined the queue on Friday before having to drop out to take her son to university in Stoke on Trent.
She had stayed in line for seven hours but had to get the last train out of Waterloo at midnight.
“If I didn’t go then I wouldn’t be able to take him to uni and that’s so important,” the Irish-born nurse said as she joined the queue again on Sunday.
“But I am ready to queue again, for 14 hours this time. As I was driving round the M25 coming back from Stoke on Trent I thought: ‘I have to do it again’. I could hear them on the radio saying don’t leave home, they are considering closing the queue. I panicked and thought I was going to miss it. I could have joined where I dropped out at Waterloo but I didn’t want to queue-jump just because I waited seven hours before. So I have started from the beginning.
“I am doing it because as a little girl in Ireland all I can remember is watching Charles marry Diana.”
Marian Chandler, 68, and Rosemary Richardson, 62, took the train from York on Saturday and joined the queue at 3am on Sunday morning. Clutching blankets, the friends appeared cheerful as they approached the end of the queue near Lambeth Bridge.
“When you start at the beginning, there are people handing out blankets from M&S to keep us warm because it was very chilly,” Marian said.
“We’ve had two hours’ sleep, and we’re planning to get two hours tonight because we want to get up at 2am to get a good spot near the Abbey to watch the funeral,” Rosemary added. “I love the Queen and I just want to say cheerio to her and thank her for everything. She is an amazing example of dedication and service. We’re very sad but we wish King Charles all the best.”
Telma Gutierrez praised the spirit of those in the queue and the volunteers handing out sandwiches and tea and coffee.
The 40-year-old from Aldgate, east London, who joined the queue with her sister-in-law, said: “It’s a historic moment and it’s the last time we’ll get to see the Queen, and the last time we’ll have a Queen because it’s going to be kings from now on.
“We’re all tired but we’ve had a lady in the queue called Lydia who has kept our spirits up because she’s quite funny.”
Raphael Uwanoghor, 43, and his wife, Elizabeth, 44, travelled from Greenwich, south-east London with their three children and joined the queue at 3am.
“It’s a historic moment we don’t want to miss. We’re going to learn a lot from being here and we want our children to have this experience, too,” said Raphael, who was wrapped in a blanket.
Hailey and James Frost, both Royal Air Force veterans, made the 200-mile trip from Devon with their daughter Eleanor, who was dressed in a Brownie uniform. The couple, who were wearing suits adorned with medals, joined the queue at 3.30am.
“We’re RAF veterans so we served under the Queen in the 90s for 10 years and we met her countless times. So we’ve come all the way from Devon to get here and pay our respects. I met the Queen at the 75th anniversary of RAF Marham in 1993. I am a huge fan.”
Deborah Adeoye brought her daughter Kemi, 15, nieces Jasmine, eight, India, 12, Safiya, 10, and nephew Zachary, 10, along for the “historic moment”.
“I want the little ones to experience this moment,” said the 55-year-old from Kingston, Surrey, who joined the queue at 5am. “We’re Trinidadian but brought up in the UK, and we want to pay our respects and say thank you. The girls are wearing their own grandmother’s fascinators in tribute.”