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I Went Back Home to England To See Queen Elizabeth II Lying In State. I Won’t Ever Forget It.

Queen Elizabeth II Lying in State
Queen Elizabeth II Lying in State Line. Image Credit: 19FortyFive/Jack Buckby.

19FortyFive Contributor Jack Buckby is on the ground in the UK covering the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Here are his first impressions, as he was able to pay his respects to the Queen at the Palace of Westminster just hours ago: 

I flew home to England from New York for Her Majesty the Queen’s funeral on Saturday. It was a snap decision, but after missing her historic Platinum Jubilee only months ago, I decided that I couldn’t possibly miss the funeral of the only Queen I’ve ever known.

I arrived in London Gatwick and first made my way to Brighton before later planning to journey to London. I had an appointment at the Palace of Westminster to see the Queen lying in state in Westminster Hall that afternoon.

Upon arriving in the United Kingdom, the first time in over 18 months, I immediately noticed the cold. The stereotypes about British weather are true, although despite the cold, it was a beautiful late summer morning with clear skies. I found my way onto the Gatwick Express train to Brighton, which was packed with mourners leaving the nation’s capital and heading home. One man quietly ate his breakfast wearing a Union Flag waistcoat, looking sorrowful as he watched the farm fields pass by.

A family sat next to me, a grandmother, mother, and young boy. They spent the entire trip discussing their experience in the famed “queue,” a line of people waiting for their turn to quietly file past the Queen’s coffin and say their final goodbyes. They were exhausted but thrilled that they made a “last minute decision,” as the mother said, to leave work and join the long, winding, miles-long queue of people wanting to see the Queen lying in state.

The young boy lay his head on the table, sleeping as his mother complained of lower back pain; a complaint made by many other queuers during interviews on the national news. Little did these people know that their willingness to stand for an entire day in the cold and the rain, with little more than their jackets and possibly a flask of tea, would go down in the history books. Memes shared online painted this queue as the “final boss of queues” and the “queue British people have been training for their entire lives.”

It’s not wrong. British people are perhaps the most committed queuers in the world, which is perhaps why Philip Schofield, a British morning television presenter who allegedly had a relationship with a man less than half of his age, was scolded by the British public for “jumping the queue.” Incredibly, Schofield appeared to have gotten away with allegedly being unfaithful to his wife, but became public enemy number one when it was revealed recently how he could bypass the queue and view the Queen lying in state with what must have been media credentials.

Meanwhile, famous British footballer David Beckham won the hearts of the British public by standing for 13 hours in the queue for his own chance to see the Queen, despite reportedly being offered a shortcut.

An American acquaintance commented in recent days about my planned trip to London for the passing of the Monarch, a trip motivated largely by my desire to be among my own people at a time of national mourning.“I heard something about that,” she said. “If the president died, I wouldn’t make that journey.”

While many Americans may feel a real sadness if the president passed – assuming it was a president they liked, anyway – the fact that such an extraordinary number of Brits were willing to go to these lengths to say goodbye to the Queen reflects the deep bond they share with the Monarch, despite most of the Queen’s subjects having never actually met her.

More than just an unelected or privileged figurehead, the Monarch and the institution of the Monarchy is deeply embedded in the psyche of the British people.

The Queen was a living link to our past, a human connection to the Divine, and a symbol of national unity and strength. A woman who gave her entire life to represent this country as best she could – and she did it so exceptionally well – and worked until her final days on this earth.

Upon arriving in London later that afternoon, I realized I had failed to plan ahead for my trip properly. While I knew I needed to arrive at the Gate 4 entrance of Victoria Tower Gardens to access the media center for Westminster Palace, I hadn’t thought about how to get there. Every street was packed with people, and many of the streets I needed to access the gardens were closed. After conversations with multiple police officers and probably a dozen wrong turns, I finally found my way to the gate. I’m afraid to say that I “pulled a Philip Schofield,” bypassing the queue and using my media credentials for an opportunity to see the Queen lying in state and write this report.

I walked by the queue as I approached the gate, wishing that I’d been able to fly to London for more extended and experience this camaraderie with my peers. I am British, after all, and a well-managed queue is hard to turn down. But alas, I had no time.

Once through the gate I was guided along with two other journalists across the grounds of the Palace and into an entrance where we were required to go through airport-style security.

We were then ushered into a media room for 20 minutes, where we had an opportunity to gather our thoughts and write down some notes. We were awaiting an escort to Westminster Hall, who would arrive after the previous group of journalists had had their chance to see the Queen. One journalist in the room looked visibly shaken, and I couldn’t help but find myself feeling a little thrown off myself.

Queen Elizabeth

Elizabeth II in Berlin 2015, aged 89.

I never thought I’d meet the Queen. But I certainly never thought I’d be in her company after her passing.

Soon, a woman came into the media room and walked us through the Palace grounds – only the second time in my life I have had the privilege of stepping foot in this beautiful building and walking through the twisting archways and alleyways within it. The Palace of Westminster is genuinely my favorite building in the world, originally built more than 1,000 years ago but rebuilt in a Gothic Revival style in the early 1800s.

The moment we arrived at Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Palace, which was constructed in 1097, I could see the Queen’s coffin and the guards. Behind the heads of the sorrowful mourners shuffling out of the building, I could see the Imperial Crown, the Beefeaters, and the rest of the guards. I was lucky enough to be taken to a viewing platform, where I had an opportunity to take notes, though I found myself repeatedly putting down my notebook to stand and watch simply.

I can’t describe my emotions upon seeing the Queen lying there, surrounded by hundreds of people who loved her. So I won’t.

Besides the visuals, one of the most impactful things about this experience was the silence in that room. In a previous visit to Westminster Hall, I recall how loud, cavernous, and echoey this place was. Not this time. Normally filled with the hustle and bustle of visitors, journalists, politicians, and staff, this huge historic Hall – walked by Britain’s Kings and Queens for the last 1,000 years – was the most quiet I’ve ever experienced in any public place with this many people.

There was not a single echoing bang, not a single shoe scraping on the floor, and not even a cough or a whisper. Just dead silence – until roughly 15 minutes into my thirty minutes in the Hall, I heard two large taps. A Queen’s guard appeared to my right, tapping a staff on the ground to indicate that the changing of the guard’s ceremony was about to take place. Every 20 minutes, the guards are switched.

I watched in awe as what sounded like a parade of horses entered the building. The sound of the soldiers marching into the Hall, and the echoes the marching produced, stopped everybody dead in their tracks. The soldiers effortlessly and gracefully took their places next to the guards already protecting Her Majesty, before those guards marched away and out of the Hall. The British are truly the masters of pageantry, but make no mistake; these guards were real soldiers with real weapons.

As the mourners passed the coffin, once the changing of the guard was complete, some bowed, some nodded their heads, and one even fell to his knees and prayed. This ancient building was host to 21st-century Britons mourning the passing of perhaps the most loved figurehead of an institution that has survived 1,200 years. Save the cameras and the modern clothes, it was as if I had gone back in time and was witnessing the passing of a Monarch from some 500 years ago. But after a lifetime of working tirelessly to preserve the Monarchy, this contrast between new and old was a sign that the Queen represented modern Britain as much as she sought to reach out to it.

Prince Charles and Now King Charles

Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the Monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 Commonwealth countries, Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, immediately assumed the position of King.

It is a testament to the Queen’s dedication to the British people that so many people came and that so many are willing to remain just as loyal to her son, King Charles III, as they were to her. If the passing of this most extraordinary leader and the response to it tell us anything, it’s that Constitutional Monarchy works.

It is a unifying force in a divided world, even in the former colonies, and this legacy will undoubtedly live on.

It was the honor of my life to spend 30 minutes in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.

The Queen is dead; long live the King.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Yrral

    September 19, 2022 at 8:32 am

    Cornerstone and Pillars of the British monarchs Death Deceit, Treachery, Adultery,a foundation not to be built upon

  2. xheavy

    September 19, 2022 at 8:45 am

    I monitor the funeral process live in between rest periods.

    We will never have another leader worth having this occasion ever again in my lifetime.

    The UK People has for once quietly worked through this whole story and has done well with a couple of very minor exceptions easily fixed on the spot.

    What bothers me more than anything is the Crown Jewels, Orb and Scepture. That stuff usually sits in the Tower of London where its safe for all to enjoy. To have it outside for the world to see…

    It will be good to have the burial done and those things back in the Tower. Its a process that has done very well so far. And after noon our time today that should be that.

    Well Done Littlebit. God Save the Queen, Long Live the King; from America.

  3. 403Forbidden

    September 19, 2022 at 10:12 am

    Elizabeth II (though no longer here with us on earth) has a few questions still left unanswered with regards to the royal family’s overall treatment of Diana.

    Diana seemed unwelcome or not regarded as an inner circle member or clique, and result was grand adultery, betrayal and separation.

    There have been rumors Brit royal family struggled with mental health issues, heh, heh, not much different from American ruling families. Latest one being the current president ailed by late stage dementia, cognitive decline and physical deterioration.

    Thus Brit royal family is just an anachronistic holdover from imperial era or Empire era.

    Strangely, USA perennially holds presidential contests where the only 2 candidates are known for inept or incompetent knowledge of outside world.

    Clearly,the two anglo powers of the world have vestigial types or forms of leadership, where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and vice versa.

  4. Ron Hendrickson

    September 19, 2022 at 10:18 am

    Shame on jumping the queue. I stopped reading after I read that.

    • Jack Buckby

      September 19, 2022 at 8:31 pm

      Journalists are given access to events like this so we can report on it. It’s the purpose of media credentials. That’s not queue jumping.

  5. S Schumach

    September 19, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Your entire article is to be discounted as worthless as you admit you used your credentials to ‘cut the line’….you are nothing but an elitist snob.

  6. Steven

    September 19, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    Couldn’t give a fuck about “Royalty”. My dingleberries are royalty.

  7. Alfred Lemire

    September 19, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    This newspaper reporter in the 1960s greatly appreciated Mr. Buckby’s account. He did what he had to do. I watched from my long-term-care bed, awed at the discipline and precision of the uniformed marchers and most respectful of the people who walked in line to pay their respects. Mr. Buckby added so much:

    “A family sat next to me” on a train, “a grandmother, mother, and young boy. They spent the entire trip discussing their experience in the famed “queue,” a line of people waiting for their turn to quietly file past the Queen’s coffin and say their final goodbyes. They were exhausted but thrilled that they made a “last minute decision,” as the mother said, to leave work and join the long, winding, miles-long queue of people wanting to see the Queen lying in state.”

    “British footballer David Beckham won the hearts of the British public by standing for 13 hours in the queue for his own chance to see the Queen, despite reportedly being offered a shortcut.”

    “The Queen was a . . . woman who gave her entire life to represent this country as best she could – and she did it so exceptionally well – and worked until her final days on this earth.”

    Great reporting, that, and more, written with the deliberate speed of a professional.

  8. Michael Anderson

    September 19, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    Yawn.

  9. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    September 19, 2022 at 7:52 pm

    The Queen was a dignified woman of faith who performed her role and duties admirably. I’ll keep my opinion of the King to myself.

  10. S Schumach

    September 20, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    “I’m afraid to say that I “pulled a Philip Schofield,” bypassing the queue and using my media credentials for an opportunity to see the Queen lying in state and write this report.”

    Your reply to Ron Hendrickson demonstrates your elitist snobbery.

    ‘Footage of Schofield and Willoughby was captured last week as they walked into Westminster Hall via the press line, causing instant outrage online as they were accused of queue-jumping. Other celebrities, including the anchors’ ITV co-star Susanna Reid, soccer star David Beckham and even actor Tilda Swinton were all seen queuing overnight in a bid to pay their final respects to the Queen as she lay-in-state for five days before her funeral on Monday.’

    You, and others like you, deserve all the scorn directed your way

  11. tbezier

    September 20, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    Jack, a great piece of reporting. You really did capture what has just happened and what the Queen meant to so many people. You had your media-pass, you used it to best effect. To do your work. Good job.

    I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who watched the live stream of the Lying-In-State in Westminster Hall hour after hour day after day as a whole nation and people from all around the world paid the last homage and respects to a truly unique leader. Hypnotic and deeply moving. It was like nothing I have seen before. Being too young for the Winston Churchill state funeral. And I am certain we will never see anything like it again. If I had been in London at the time I would have been in the queue. Because it was the right thing to do.

    I think for so many people we will never get used to no longer singing “God Save the Queen”. The word maybe King, but in our hearts it will still be Queen.

    I see only three comments so far that dont seem to sound like the ignorant effluvia from losers who still live in their parents basements. To those tossers, no one cares what you think. Bell-ends.

    A traditional English greeting to people like that. There are a lot more choice Anglo-Saxon terms too. Innit’

    Great work Jack. First class. Ignore the cockwombles.

  12. BMP66

    October 20, 2022 at 8:39 am

    As an American, I have the highest respect for the Queen’s efforts to handle her position with dignity and devotion to duty. Her faith and commitment appeared to be very real, which is important to me. In so many years of faithful service to her people, her faults and frailties were rarely seen. I am ashamed of the deteriorating quality of the more recent generations of my own nation shown by disrespectful comments; they have no appreciation for our connections with humans of different cultures, and they don’t understand the relationship we have with nations with whom our military fought side-by-side in horrific wars. I am glad that I am old, that I am part of that older generation which valued true education, finely-honed skills of every sort, and a sense of where we fit into the variety of global cultures. I hope the Queen is ever remembered as one of the best in a long and devoted monarchy. Though I recommend that the author make use of Grammarly’s fine-tuning in the future, I appreciate that his emotions are genuine.

  13. madmemere

    October 21, 2022 at 12:32 am

    Thank you, Jack Buckby, for a vivid recount of your time with Her Majesty The Queen. She was a wondrous leader — strong but compassionate and always wise beyond her years. Even though I am US born, I have had the privilege of following and admiring her most of my life. She will be greatly missed by all who have known her, more so by her family.
    Yes, the Queen is dead – – -Long Live the King; I pray Charles can even begin to fill his mother’s shoes.

  14. Julia

    October 21, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    I’ve followed Queen Elisabeth most of my life. As an American I’ve always admired how well she maintained the role as Queen. She lived in a “fishbowl” so to speak, without the privileges of privacy the rest of the world enjoys. I will miss her.

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