“The Queue” in real time

September 17, 2022 • 8:00 am

There will be no wildlife photos today as I have only a few sets that I must conserve until more come in (hint, hint).

The Queue, as it’s called, has now achieved iconic status in England. Queuing, of course, is the British national hobby, and woe be to the American who doesn’t Respect the Queue!  But the line to see Queen Elizabeth’s coffin is the Mother of All Queues, now about five miles long.  Below is a live Queue Tracker that shows you how long you have to wait (14 hours right now). And it’s not going to get shorter, either, as the line is expected to grow until before the lying-in-state ends in two days. As I wrote a couple of days ago,

The lying-in-state ends “at 06.30 BST on Monday, 19 September, and the queue will close early to ensure as many people as possible can get in.” If the crowds continue, it have to close a day early!

Elizabeth is lying in the Palace of Westminster, first built in the 11th century and reconstructed in 1834 after a fire. You all know this building; it’s where the Houses of Parliament are and is flanked by the tower of Big Ben:

Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, and Westminster Bridge as seen from the south bank of the River Thames.

So get your tuchas in line if you’re in London want to see it all. Here’s a live tracker of the waiting time and a map, but you’ll want to watch the live feed of the lying-in-state at the bottom of this post.

Here’s The Queue at present At least you can see many of London’s sights as you shuffle along for a day or so. It’s now about 5.5 miles long, which means it would take you two hours to walk past it all at normal speed.

Satellite images! Enlarge the photos.

I have to say that although I wasn’t a big fan of Queen Elizabeth, and an even smaller fan of the Royal Family, it is touching to see the Brits come out in such huge numbers, enduring long waits for a few seconds of meditation before the coffin of their late Queen. They are a stalwart folk, able to endure a lot to show their love of country. Even Matthew, who is like me (thought Elizabeth was okay, doesn’t like the Royal Family), wavered a bit, sending me an email this morning:

Almost makes me want to go. Almost.

He won’t go, of course, but it’s telling that the thought crossed his mind.  He also sent me a fantastic series of tweets by Jules Birkby. a 42-year-old artist who endured the long wait with her mum. I highly recommend that you read through her whole series! (Keep clicking “show more replies” when you get to the end of one part.) Birkby is full of patience and good humor, and really gives you a sense of what it’s like to walk The Queue. Click on the first tweet below to get started:

Keep clicking “show replies” until you get to the end of the thread (the tweet in which Jules mentions her greeting-card operation).

I add two tweets Jules made right after she and her Mum exited Westminster Palace. The last one is so British: Jules was pining for a cup of tea the whole night and morning, and she finally got one. Oh, and David Beckham was also in The Queue in front of them, and waited just like anyone else. NOBODY jumps The Queue!

Jules notes that some women walked the whole way in high heels. 

Now you’ll want to have at least a look at the livestream of the ceremony on YouTube. Do watch for at least 15 minutes, as that’s how often they change the guard. and that is definitely worth seeing.

As Matthew said, “Very soothing, no commentary, no music. They change the guard every 15 mins.”.  I’m touched by how all the guards look down and also by the behavior of the visitors, which is quite variable but always respectful. Some people bow, some people weep, but nobody tarries, as they know others are waiting.

There are several cameras that alternately focus on different aspects of the crowd and the venue.

h/t: Matthew

28 thoughts on ““The Queue” in real time

  1. The number of people in the queue is not “huge”. It’s a tiny fraction of the population. People have every right to be diehard royalists if they want to. Equally, people have every right to abhor the flummery and the Gilbert & Sullivan image that it projects of my country.

    1. Sorry, but why did you put this comment up? Did you want to be a Pecksniff and correct me? The number IS huge by American standards.

      And why the comment about the right to abhor royalty? I’ve already said that and agreed with it.

      Try to be more civil and less Pecksniffian on my site, please. I suggest you read the posting Roolz on the left sidebar since this is your first tweet and you’re apparently unfamiliar with how we interact here.

    2. It’s estimated that some 350.000 people will brave the queue to view the Queen’s coffin. A fraction of the population perhaps, but hardly “tiny”. It’s about 1 in every 200 people in the UK.

      1. And people need to make a huge commitment to join The Queue. A complete day of your life (plus recovery time) is involved. Not everyone has the ability to that. –
        I don’t. Additionally, not everybody in The Queue is an ardent monarchist: many, many people, like myself, might not like the institution but who had huge respect for the late queen.

    3. Every number is huge or small depending upon what you compare it to. To catch the human interest of a number what you compare it to matters. For or against royalty that queue IS huge!

    1. Are you sure anyone is getting fast-tracked? I imagine the disabled would be moved to the head of the line, but it seems to me that Brits would consider it rude for a famous person to jump the queue. Kudos for Becks for standing along with everyone else.

      1. The news stories I read suggest that he was offered the possibility of being fast tracked, but refused. But you are right that we would consider it rude to jump the queue and any celebrity that did so (and got found out) would be in some hot water.

        As for disabled people, there appears to be a separate and much shorter accessible queue to cater for them (the purple dotted line on your map).

  2. Ah queueing. It is the reason why the Normans were able to conquer England in 1066. The Saxons were queueing for the cup of tea when the Normans attacked. A sneaky underhand move!

  3. On the map, I’ve been noticing the “bag drop” route and maybe site. Could someone please explain what that Is?

    Also there is an “accessible route” shown, which I assume is an option for those with a handicap or special needs. This seems like a good provision.

    1. It is, although I don’t know what stops anyone just turning up in a wheelchair to jump the main queue. The accessible route was “paused” for a while the other day and I wondered if that might have been about this issue, but the news hasn’t reported about it since.

  4. I like the word “queue”‘s . It’s perfect. There’s that lovely “Q”, pronounced, often softly but still clear and waiting right behind it, patient and silent, are four other letters.

  5. Thanks for mentioning this. I’ve been catching portions over the past 2 days, amazed by the endless variety of faces, clothing, colors and facial expressions as the tens of thousands stream past in reserved silence. I particularly enjoy watching an old salt in beret and medal placard come to attention and snap off a salute. As an aside, I think I saw Justin Trudeau of Canada kind of jump The Queu by coming through a side door off on the left for his moment then leave the same way.

  6. Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl
    But she doesn’t have a lot to say
    Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl
    But she changes from day to day
    I wanna tell her that I love her a lot
    But I gotta get a belly full of wine
    Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl
    Someday I’m gonna make her mine, oh yeah
    Someday I’m gonna make her mine

    Now that is a pretty nice eulogy by the Beatles (I guess Macca).

  7. They’ve just announced that The Queue is closed now to new people wishing to join it (but those already in it should get into Westminster Hall).

    Unrelated, but a man was arrested earlier for attempting to pull the standard (flag) from the coffin: https://www.skynews.com.au/world-news/united-kingdom/man-arrested-by-police-after-rushing-towards-queen-elizabeth-iis-coffin-trying-to-pull-royal-standard-flag-off-casket/news-story/9ef2a8ea0ec3c72c1f2fd723a1bb9a33

  8. (couldn’t find place to comment on Down House so here it is:)A very austere house but this is the rear view, not the front. It took England 150 years to realize the importance of the house, which was used by various businesses during that time. The restoration removed all the fascinating mementoes and documents in the rear facing dining room, including a letter from a local squire to a workman who regularly did repairs for the Darwins, in which he told him their business relationship was over because he had been seen at the Darwin memorial service in Westminster Abbey which celebrated Darwin’s blasphemy and heresy. The renovation added a tea room in case visitors were bored. We visited in the early 1990s and were the only visitors besides a Japanese filmmaker and an American woman who was overseeing the house. Our later visit a decade later included a David Attenborough recording to accompany what was more or less a gutted house except for Darwin’s study.

    1. That is not quite right. After the Darwins died, the house became a girls’ school from 1907 to 1926. It then it became the Darwin Museum (I remember cycling there from Bromley in 1962), and was taken over by English Heritage in 1996. They have sourced some of the original furnishings and restored many others, following painstaking research. The Darwin dining room, sitting room and bedroom are now as close as possible to what they were when the family lived there; and many of Darwin’s personal possessions, books and notebooks are on display.

      The Attenborough commentary on the audiophones has been updated, and is both informative and moving. The gardens are great. And the mulberry tree is still going strong!

  9. The queue is mesmerizing. I watched until the change of the guard, and now I’m still watching…well, it’s in the background. The only sound is the sword that clangs the stone. I wonder if King Charles III will muster much of a queue…

  10. Most interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve been bemused from afar by The Queue, but I found Jules Birkby’s Twitter thread very touching, and now it all makes a certain kind of sense as an expression of national solidarity. Nice to see so many pictures of the Thames. Almost makes me want to hop on a plane. Time to listen to “Waterloo Sunset” again.

  11. There was an interesting comment piece in the Guardian on Thursday by Stephen Reicher, an export on crowd psychology. He suggests that there are many reasons, beside devotion to the monarchy, why people might be joining The Queue:


    Another article, in this morning’s Observer (sorry, no link as yet), reports on polling which suggests that those in The Queue are — perhaps surprisingly — more likely to have a liberal and anti-Brexit outlook. It’s also reported — again surprisingly — in the strongly pro-Brexit Mail here:


  12. I walked the walk with my daughter Charlotte on Friday early morning, starting just after midnight. David Beckham was about 90min behind. There was a pleasant cool breeze. Tower Bridge and the Shard are illuminated with royal purple, and London by the river, at night, with no traffic, is a wonderful sight. The crowd was a cross section of the nation, of all ages, 6 to 80 or more; all classes; and all ethnicities; plus some tourists. People would break off to get coffee, and for toilet breaks, and rejoin where they left from. It was 13h of model British queueing; looking around I could see the same group of people we were next to at the start, all within a few yards of us. A woman from Yorkshire was near us with her son. She wasn’t very well prepared. She went to Westminster to try and get in and of course was directed to the back of the queue! Instead of taking the tube, they walked the length of the queue all the way to the back before starting the walk proper. Everyone was in good humour with no complaints. We heard that an hour was added to our wait because someone had thrown up in the hall, and they closed it for cleaning.

  13. Big Ben is the bell in the tower, although as you did, it’s commonly used to refer to the clock and the whole tower too. The tower is called Elizabeth Tower.

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