All night vigil observed

SHOULDER to shoulder, and as far as the eye could see, they stood together in a vigil of respectful quiet.They had come from far and wide, in grief and in tribute, eager to be a part of this great ceremonial occasion, the likes of which Britain had not seen for so many long years.

By Jo Macdonald

SHOULDER to shoulder, and as far as the eye could see, they stood together in a vigil of respectful quiet.

They had come from far and wide, in grief and in tribute, eager to be a part of this great ceremonial occasion, the likes of which Britain had not seen for so many long years.

Lined in the shadow of the Great Westminster Hall, this was a showing of Royal respect beyond all expectations.


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Thousands upon thousands had held their own place in this national vigil for many long hours. And even before dawn had broken, before police had taken their own positions of duty, before the day's events had officially had their beginning, so many men, women and children had gathered here in anticipation.

All around them, the capital was itself preparing for it's great moment of modern times, silence broken only by the occasional moody chimes of Big Ben.

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Along every pathway, the immaculate presence of police officers spoke so poignantly of the occasion.

In white gloves and with sombre faces, they surveyed the route and maintained their position among the ever-expanding crowds.

Overhead a single helicopter occasionally passed above the expectant faces, breaking, as it did so, and an apparent air of hushed human ceremony.

And among the rooftops of Westminster's many historic landmarks, a more sinister presence captured the fear at the capital's heart. Poised, every wary, armed officers faithfully kept a vigil of their own to protect those below.

It was a presence that quite simply needed no explanation, but could not have escaped the eyes and the minds of all those here in their ceremonial tribute to Royalties loss.

Today London's cool spring air seemed not to matter to those who had turned out to greet this ceremonial morning.

Because of it those faithful well wishers were simply wrapping themselves tighter against the breeze, no less patient, no less aware of the great occasion in which they were set to partake.

Indeed, their mood seemed not to be one of sadness, but moreover, one of time honoured respect, of courtesy, and as one woman said so sincerely of "orderly and fitting thanks".

"This is not so much a grief stricken crowd, as one with purpose and admiration," said Mary Lambert among a group of well wishing friends.

"We have stood here among the people and we have felt a sense of an orderly and fitting opportunity to give thanks.

"There are the occasional tears because of the great sense of unity but we are talking tears of acknowledgement and glory, not of sadness and of sorrow."

And that essentially, must capture the emotion of all those lined in the capital on this very day.

Fittingly, they smile at the gentle sound of a Caribbean band, they talk emphatically about this experience among their apparent comrades, and they wait, respectfully for the Queen Mother's very last of journeys.

The capital today mirrors the nation's mourning. But above all, it is experiencing a sense of unprecedented and respectful unity. This is a moment of touching and unrivalled tribute to our nation's deepest and unforgotten history.

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