lying in state queue

Those lining up along the South Bank of the Thames in London, UK to see Elizabeth II Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall could well be part of a record-breaking event. 

The line of people snaking through London has reached 4.9 miles and has tens of thousands of people in it as of 16 September.

Elizabeth II's coffin was transported from Edinburgh to London on 13 September on a record-breaking flight before being placed in the famous hall. 

"As much as the British enjoy a queue, I don't think we've ever seen the likes of this on our shores before, at least not in a couple of generations," said Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief at Guinness World Records.

The queue through Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster

"The question is, is this incredible show of love and respect for Queen Elizabeth II record-breaking globally and historically? I wouldn't be surprised: the Queen broke so many world records in her lifetime, it would seem fitting that even her passing should be on a superlative scale.

"All we can do now is await the findings of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who are helping us to assess the enormity of the queues and crowds."

The official queue currently ends at Southwark Park, a brisk two-hour walk away from the hall, but those in the queue face a much slower walk of at least 14 hours as the line shuffles towards Westminster. 

For those who cannot or do not want to join the queue, the DCMS created a YouTube livestream showing a map view of the queue’s route and regular updates on the length, expected wait time and closest landmark of the queue.  

At the time of writing, the livestream has over 7,000 live viewers. 

It reached its capacity at approximately 10am GMT on 16 September and a pause was implemented on people joining the queue – but another unofficial queue formed metres from the end of "The Queue" in anticipation of it reopening, with hundreds waiting to... wait!  

In the official queue, members of the public can expect to pass many iconic London landmarks such as the London Eye and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Barriers line the queue route and portable toilets have been placed along at regular intervals. 

The tradition of Lying-in-State allows the public to view the coffin of the monarch or official who has passed and pay their respects. The coffin is typically placed in a principal building, in this case, Westminster Hall at London's Palace of Westminster, located just across the road from Westminster Abbey.  

Westminster Abbey has long been the location of choice for significant royal events and has hosted every English and British monarch’s coronation since 1066.  

Like many heads of state before her, the most significant events of Queen Elizabeth II’s life took place in Westminster Abbey, including her wedding on 20 November 1947 to Prince Philip of Greece and of course her coronation on 2 June 1953. 

How does it compare to other queues recorded throughout history? 

George VI’s Lying-in-State 

Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, also drew an immense crowd for his Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall in February 1952. The queue was dubbed "The Great Queue" and a total of 305,806 people filed past the coffin, according to a TIME article published on 25 February 1952. 

 "Under the reign of George VI, Britons learned to queue—tediously and inevitably—for food, for fun, for clothing, for travel, for life's necessities and life's rewards. Last week they queued for George himself."

"No one could measure or plot precisely the serpentine columns of human beings that formed and reformed, doubled, branched and coiled back again along London's streets and across chilly Thames bridges, to get a last glimpse of the dead King's coffin as it lay in medieval Westminster Hall."

Queen Elizabeth II with President Kennedy

JFK’s Lying-in-State 

President John F. Kennedy (b. 29 May 1917) was the youngest elected as US president at the age of 43 years 236 days old, as of his inauguration on 20 January 1961. He met Queen Elizabeth II later that same year.

His leadership and life were cut short when he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. 

Following his tragic and abrupt death, his casket was moved to the U.S. Capitol Rotunda were thousands of people from around the USA and beyond arrived to pay their respects.  

On Monday 25 November, just hours before the President's funeral, the line of mourners reportedly stretched for three miles and by 9am, approximately 250,000 people were recorded as having viewed the President’s casket.  

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s funeral  

Official Iranian estimates said 10,200,000 people flocked to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s funeral on 11 June 1989. The crush resulting in eight people being killed and 500 being injured. 

The over 10 million people made up one-sixth of the population of Iran at the time, breaking the record for the largest percentage of population to attend a funeral. Western agencies estimated that two million paid their respects as the body of the first supreme leader of Iran lay in state. 

The largest funeral gathering ever was at the funeral of the charismatic C.N. Annadurai (d. 3 Feb 1969), Madras Chief Minister. It was attended by 15 million people, according to a police estimate. That’s roughly the same amount of people who inhabit the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina.  

traffic jam

Longest traffic jam  

Though not quite a queue in the same sense as those waiting on their own two feet, these traffic jams certainly had people queue in their cars for hours upon hours – if not days.  

On 16 February 1980, a line of vehicles stretched 176 km (109 miles) northwards from Lyon towards Paris, France breaking the record for the longest traffic jam (distance).

Ten years later, on 12 April 1990, another record-breaking traffic jam was recorded, the longest traffic jam (number of vehicles), as 18 million cars crawled bumper-to-bumper on the East-West German border.