The Longest Line in the World

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Emma Hughes
October 1, 2022
The Longest Line in the World

Last week, I joined hundreds of thousands of people in the queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state. After her passing, the Queen’s coffin was brought to Westminster Hall in London, where, for five days, people were allowed to walk through the hall to view her coffin, draped in the Royal Standard flag, topped by the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s orb and scepter. The experience became international news, not really for the lying in state itself, but for the incredibly long line to view it—at maximum, it was a 10 mile walk with an estimated wait time of over 24 hours. I wasn’t in the line at its longest, but I spent plenty of time walking the Thames in anticipation of what I’d see, and I’d argue that the experience of the queue was more impactful than the view at the end of it.

I walked by the queue when it first started on Wednesday night. It was an odd visual. On one side of Westminster Hall, you could see countless people lined up between a park and a white tent. They were bundled-up, but in all types of clothing; some in sweats and sneakers, like they knew they’d be standing for a while, others in suits and nice shoes, as if they were running an errand after work. I couldn’t tell what was behind the tent, but I had guessed it was the entrance to the hall. They seemed uncomfortable, but surprisingly calm and patient. On the other side of the hall was a completely different picture. Policemen buzzed around, controlling the crowds that had gathered to see the hall. Food vendors sold to lines of onlookers. Tourists took golden-hour photos over the water. 

The next night, five of my friends and I decided to wait in the queue. We ate dinner at a restaurant near the end of the queue, which was, at that time, at Southwark Park, about three and a half miles from Westminster Hall. We joined the line around 10pm. At the time, the estimated wait time was eight hours (in the end, 11 hours had passed by the time we were inside the hall). We knew that it would be a long, long night, but it would be worth it. Seeing the inside of the hall, seeing the ceremony of it all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was solemn, but in another way it was fascinating. 

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Emma Hughes

Hello! My name is Emma Hughes, and I'm a junior studying Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa. I'm visiting London to study public relations and explore the arts and theatre communities in the UK. I love theatre, creative writing, game nights, and movies. This fall, I hope to have lots of new and exciting experiences in London, and that sharing them with you helps you get the most out of your time abroad!

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