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The line to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state reached capacity and was temporarily closed

Mourners wait hours to pay respects to queen
Mourners wait hours to pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II 02:21

The extremely long line to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state reached capacity on Friday and was temporarily closed, the U.K government said. The line reopened about six hours later — with a warning of a long, cold night of waiting ahead. 

The government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said the expected queuing time is over 24 hours and overnight temperatures will be cold. It also said the queue could be paused again if it hits capacity.

The department has a live "queue tracker" streaming on YouTube that provides updates on the line.

Her Majesty The Queen's Lying-in-State | Queue Tracker by Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport on YouTube

The queen is lying in state at Palace of Westminster until her funeral on Monday. A large procession carried her coffin there from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

While people can visit to pay their respects 24 hours a day, the vast number of those lining up means extremely long wait times. Friday morning, the line stretched 4.9 miles.

The government warned people that there would be little opportunity to sit down while in the queue, as it is continuously moving. When people finally reach the front of the line, they must go through airport-style security to get inside.

The Nation Mourns The Death Of Queen Elizabeth II - Friday
A sign informs people in line in Southwark Park that there is a pause in the queue to see Queen Elizabeth II lying in state, which begins at the park and concludes at Westminster Hall, on September 16, 2022 in London, United Kingdom.  / Getty Images

An official map of the queue shows its route snaking along the south bank of the River Thames, with the end of the line near London's Southwark Park. 

There are bathrooms and first aid stations along the route, and a bag drop where people can leave their belongings before going inside. Capacity at the bag drop facility is also limited and waiting for bag storage space can also increase someone's wait time.

The Nation Mourns The Death Of Queen Elizabeth II - Friday
Members of the public continue to wait in line to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II as she lays in state within Westminster Hall on September 16, 2022 in London. / Getty Images

The queen's lying in state gives the public an opportunity to pay their respects before her funeral. Visitors can walk past the closed coffin, which rests on a raised platform in the middle of Westminster Hall. Each corner is guarded around the clock by units from the Sovereign's Bodyguard, Foot Guards or the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

The coffin is draped in the Royal Standard flag. The Orb and Sceptre, which are part of the Crown Jewels and are used at the monarch's coronation, are placed on top.

On Thursday, CBS News spoke to people who were waiting in the queue about how their long journey was going. Most said they were willing to wait as long as it took — one even said he'd wait "forever" if he had to. Only one person said they had a personal limit: seven hours.

"I brought a book, some portable phone chargers. I have enough food for 24 hours," one person said. "I just wish I brought more comfortable shoes. I've been on my feet for hours." 

Some came equipped with thermals in case the weather got chilly later at night, and some brought things to keep them busy. "I brought my work stuff in case I spend all night here and need to go straight into the office tomorrow morning — which would be hellish, but worth it," another said.

The queue also became an opportunity to create new friendships. 

"It's been a long wait, but I've met people all day. It's been amazing," one woman said. "I met new people and we spent all afternoon together, chatting, and getting to know each other. It's been a very special day, sharing this moment together."

One man from Vancouver, Canada, said he had a 3 p.m. flight the next day and worried he would miss it. "But doing this feels right," he told CBS News.

A woman broke down in tears when describing to CBS News the importance of waiting in line for hours to say goodbye to the queen in person. 

"To me, she's the strongest female leader ever. She's the only queen I'll ever know. My heart is so empty. She made us all feel so safe. It's like she was everyone's mom. Being here today and paying my final respects to her is the least I could do. This is my little way of saying, 'Thank you ma'am, we will miss you so much.'" 

For those who cannot go in person, there is an online book of condolence the public can sign. 

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