Queen’s funeral: emotional crowds of mourners gather in Hyde Park in London to witness ‘truly historic moment’
Crowds in Hyde Park fell completely silent when the Queen’s funeral service began.
Mourners from across the country - and some from across the world - travelled to various viewing points in the capital, with many of those who secured the coveted spots near Buckingham Palace and the Mall having camped out for a day or two before.
Shortly after 9am this morning however, these primary viewing areas were closed to new arrivals - with police instead directing people to Hyde Park, where several big screens were showing the funeral live.
Queues were extensive and surrounding areas were busy, with various roads blocked off and police operating a one-way system into the park. But, the atmosphere remained relatively lively - and people chatted away as they were funnelled into the viewing area.
Once inside, people started to set up camp for the next few hours. Families had brought picnics, friends were discussing the royal proceedings, and officials were informing viewers what would happen in the day ahead.
There was a sense of unity and pride which was not too dissimilar from that felt during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, but of course, the day felt more sombre - tinged with a sadness not felt during the celebrations in June.
Amongst those gathered at Hyde Park were Chris and Debby McGregor, who had travelled from Stoke-on-Trent with their two children to watch the funeral.
The parents were proudly wearing their medals from their time in the British Army, and told NationalWorld that they were there because they had “sworn an oath of allegiance to the Queen” - and had “meant it.”
Debby added: “We also felt it was important for the children to witness this.
“We’ve all only ever known the Queen, and this is a hugely important moment in history.”
Meanwhile, David, Jenny, Charlotte and James Turner from Kent were also waiting in anticipation for the start of the funeral - explaining that they wanted to be in London to experience a “truly historic moment”.
David told NationalWorld: “We wanted to feel the day. We wanted to be here, in person, rather than watching it at home.”
Speaking on the atmosphere of the day, he continued: “We’re a nation in mourning, and it feels like that. But it also feels like a celebration of her life, which is important too.”
Mens Su, from London, shared the Turner family’s sentiments - emotionally adding that she had always felt an “immense admiration for the Queen” and thought of her as a “kind and compassionate” monarch.
Some mourners, such as Avril Lindsey who travelled from Northern Ireland, were “disappointed” to have ended up in Hyde Park rather than along the route that the Queen’s coffin would take later that day.
But, that did not overshadow the experience, with Avril saying she was intent on paying her respects to “an incredible lady” in whatever way possible.
When the funeral began at 11am, the atmosphere quickly shifted from one of murmuring anticipation to quiet reflection, with many visibly overcome with emotion.
Crowds stood as the Queen’s coffin entered Westminster Abbey, and from thenceforth, people mirrored the actions of those inside the church - standing for hymns, sitting for readings.
Police wandered through the crowds during the funeral, but moved aside when the nationwide two-minute silence begun.
People stood with bowed heads - many holding hands or embracing each other - and no one made a single sound throughout.
Applause rang out at the end of the funeral, and those gathered, wiping tears, watched as the sun finally burst through the crowds.
Some could be heard wondering whether the change in weather was the work of the late monarch herself.
Mourners quickly moved to watch the royal gun salutes, where police and soldiers on horseback were waiting.
Many tried to get as close as possible to Wellington Arch, hoping to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty’s coffin being placed into the state hearse before her journey to Windsor, but much of central London was sealed off - part of what has been called the ‘largest operation’ in the history of the Met Police.
Emily, Nicole and Vicky, who live together in a flat in Camden, told NationalWorld as they left their spot near the screens that the public response to the day had been “incredible” - and even more than they expected.
Nicole added: “It’s a moment that will be in the history text books, and we’re proud to be able to say we were here.”
The Queen began her journey out of London a little after 1pm, heading towards Windsor where she will be laid to rest.
But for hours after her departure, crowds stayed put in Hyde Park - chatting to those they had met that day and taking a moment to absorb the gravity of the occasion.
Some of those there described themselves as keen admirers of the Queen, but others claimed to never have been royalists - and simply felt, to their surprise, compelled to pay their respects in person on this historic day.
What everyone who was present in London will share however, is the unique memory of watching Queen Elizabeth II’s last appearance in Westminster Abbey - a place which has seen many important moments from her personal and royal life - and uniting with other mourners to honour the longest-reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom.