SNAKING for miles beside the slow-flowing Thames, a kaleidoscope of humanity had come to pay their final respects to the Queen.
The queue represented the best of modern, multicultural Britain, with mourners arriving from all corners of Elizabeth II’s realm and beyond.
Decent folk who loved the Queen and their country. The silent majority whose voices aren’t much heard over the shrill loudmouths that populate much of social media.
Stretching for about four and a half miles from Bermondsey Beach to Westminster Hall, where the Queen lies in state, the line of mourners seems to have captured the national mood.
Respectful and polite, friendships were instantly forged and sandwiches shared as they joined the Elizabeth Line.
Close to Tower Bridge, Titlilayo Owootomo, in her 50s, told me: “The atmosphere in the queue is beautiful. It’s so nice to see so many people from all backgrounds and all faiths. That’s what the Queen represented in her lifetime.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people coming together to honour her. I will help the nation grieve.”
The health visitor was queuing with friends Adeola Olaniyan, 60, and Tokunbo Ogumlowow, in her 50s, from Dartford, Kent.
Undaunted by the nine-hour wait to be in the presence of their late monarch, reminiscences were shared and personal stories revealed. With quiet dignity, they queued past HMS Belfast, its Union flag fluttering at half mast in a light breeze.
On the other side of the Thames, the white stone of William the Conqueror’s Tower of London was vivid in the sunshine.
Near London Bridge, Ghana-born Joseph Afrane, 58, had struck up a new friendship with Hester Leung, who arrived in Britain two years ago from Hong Kong.
In Union flag sunglasses and tie, security guard Joseph, 58, from Battersea, South London, said: “It’s a long queue but the atmosphere is fantastic. I’m by myself but I’ve met Hester queuing behind me and we’re having a good natter.
“I come from a Commonwealth background and moved to Britain 30 years ago. I dress up and go to all the big royal occasions from Trooping the Colour to all the Queen’s Jubilees.”
Retired mum-of-two Hester, 63, who now lives in High Wycombe, Bucks, said: “Joseph has been a hero entertaining me as we queued.
“I am very thankful for everything this country has offered me so I want to pay tribute to the Queen.”
‘She’s brought everyone together again’
Charlotte Lewis from The Sun’s marketing department handed copies of Thursday’s paper to those with hours to fill as they waited.
The queue then wound past London Bridge and foodie heaven Borough Market where some peeled off for sustenance.
Mum-of-six Lisa Winfield, 49, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was with her 11-year-old twin daughters Celine and Danni.
She said: “Everyone has come together from all backgrounds. That’s how the Queen has always done it.
“She didn’t care where you came from. Now she’s brought everyone together again.”
On the queue flowed, like the great river on its flank.
Sanjaya Fernando, 28, and wife Shanesha Ranasinghe, 28, had travelled from Cheltenham, Gloucs.
Student Sanjaya said: “When we heard she’d passed away it was really sad for us so we wanted to come and visit her. We’ve had great interactions with other people. It’s a long queue so there’s plenty of opportunity to meet people.”
Farther down the Thames, the Tate Modern Gallery flew banners of pop artist Andy Warhol’s classic 1985 silkscreen print of the Queen.
Mums Ainsley Blackburn, 36, and Gemma Morton, 36, had travelled from Morpeth in Northumberland to pay their respects
Doctors’ receptionist Ainsley said: “It’s just so nice to be here.
I’ll say a little prayer when I see her. I’ll shed a tear.
Civil servant Richard Horley
“Everyone wants to hear where you’ve come from and how you’re feeling.”
Police officer Gemma added: “Britain does this sort of thing so well. It’s very sad but a time to be thankful was well.”
Retired couple Simon Wilson, 67, and Sandy Pochin, 74, had come by train from Hale, Greater Manchester.
Sandy said: “It’s a lovely atmosphere. Everyone is very pleasant, polite and queueing nicely. The British are great at queueing.”
But people hadn’t just come from the UK to mourn the monarch.
Bernadette Christie, 68, booked a flight to London from the Canadian province of Alberta two minutes after the Queen’s death was announced and has been camping in London as the funeral nears.
She said: “Thirty-six hours of no sleep and here I am. It’s crazy but it’s worth it. The weather is similar to Alberta — cold and damp.”
On the queue went past Waterloo Station to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, over Lambeth Bridge and on to Britain’s crucible of power, Westminster.
There, civil servant Richard Horley, 58, from Horley, Surrey, said: “I’ll say a little prayer when I see her. I’ll shed a tear.
“When something like this happens we gather and come together. That’s how we are in Britain. The Queen has brought people together.”
It’s difficult to imagine many other countries pulling off such a feat of national mourning in the same manner.
For there’s nothing more British than an orderly queue.