LONDON: The state funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth will unite people from across the globe, the official in charge of the huge ceremonial event said on Thursday, as mourners from all walks of life queued for hours to file past the late monarch's coffin.
Presidents, prime ministers and royalty from around the world will gather on Monday for the funeral for Elizabeth, queen for 70 years whose global stature was almost without equal.
She will be finally laid to rest at a chapel at her Windsor Castle home alongside her husband of 73 years Prince Philip, who died last year, ending 10 days of national mourning.
Meanwhile, Prince William, now the heir to the throne, has said the solemn events revived memories of the funeral procession for his late mother Princess Diana, whose death in 1997 triggered a national outpouring of grief.
The body of the late Queen Elizabeth is now lying in state in London's ancient Westminster Hall, where tens of thousands are waiting patiently in line to pay their final respects to Britain's longest-reigning monarch.
"These events are taking place against the backdrop of an outpouring of grief, affection, and gratitude for people in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and across the world," said the Earl Marshal, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, England's most senior peer who is in charge of state occasions.
"The queen held a unique and timeless position in all our lives. It is our aim and belief that the state funeral and events of the next few days will unite people across the globe," he told reporters.
As he spoke, the queue to see the queen's coffin stretched more than 4 miles (6.5 km) along the south bank of the River Thames, past such landmarks as Tower Bridge, crossing Lambeth Bridge as it neared Westminster Hall.
Officials expect about 750,000 people to view the coffin before the lying in state ends at 6.30 a.m. (0530 GMT) on Monday.
The coffin was taken from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster in a solemn procession which saw King Charles, his sons Princes William and Harry and other senior royals walk behind.
It was a scene reminiscent of when, as boys 25 years ago, the princes followed the casket of their mother Diana when it was taken on a similar procession through central London.
"The walk yesterday was challenging ... brought back a few memories," William said as he and his wife Kate spoke to well-wishers and viewed the sea of floral tributes outside the royal residence of Sandringham in eastern England.
Charles, who has returned to his Highgrove home in southwest England after a hectic schedule of events since Elizabeth's death age 96 last Thursday, and his three siblings, Princess Anne and Princes Andrew and Edward, will themselves hold a silent vigil alongside the catafalque on Friday evening.
Some of those queuing to see the coffin had travelled from abroad, dropping off bags at nearby hotels to join those moving slowly through Westminster Hall. There were former soldiers with military medals and babies being carried by their parents. Many wiped away tears.
The mourners included former Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip, who bowed their heads before the coffin as they filed past with members of the public.
Amy Tsai, 24, said she had travelled from Taiwan in May and had taken part in celebrations for the queen's jubilee in June in the Scottish capital Edinburgh.
"Now I'm waiting in line to see her lying in state. I'm just shocked," she said.
For the first time, palace officials also provided details of the funeral, likely to be one of the grandest ceremonies ever seen in the British capital, involving thousands from the military and with details overseen by the monarch before her death.
"It was her majesty the queen that went through the plans and made sure they were alright and the king is implementing those plans," a spokesman for Charles said.
After the lying in state ends early on Monday morning, the coffin will be carried onto the State Gun Carriage of the Royal Navy where 142 naval service personnel will pull it to Westminster Abbey, the same church where Elizabeth was crowned in 1953, for the funeral.
The service will begin at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) and last for about an hour. At its conclusion the Last Post will sound and there will be a two minute silence to be observed by the nation.
The body will then be taken on the gun carriage in a large procession, with Charles and members of the royal family walking behind, from the Abbey to the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. Guns will fire and parliament's Big Ben bell will toll every minute.
The state hearse will then convey the coffin to Windsor Castle where there will be a further solemn procession before a service at Windsor Castle's St George's Chapel.
In a later private ceremony, Elizabeth will be buried with Philip at the King George VI Memorial Chapel where her parents and sister, Princess Margaret were also laid to rest.
Buckingham Palace said it would not provide a list of those who will attend the funeral but royalty, presidents and other world leaders are expected to be there, although certain nations, including Russia, Afghanistan, and Syria, were not extended invitations.
French President Emmanuel Macron was the latest leader to say he would attend the funeral.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who has also said he will be there, spoke to the new king on Wednesday and "conveyed the great admiration of the American people for the Queen," the White House said.
Charles will hold an official state event on Sunday to meet the dignitaries who are attending.
Asked how the new monarch was bearing up, his spokesman replied: "I think people who've worked with the king know just how resilient and hardworking he is."
The Times newspaper also reported that Prime Minister Liz Truss was expected to hold one-on-one talks with Biden and other leaders on the sidelines of the funeral, but officials have said any such meetings will be informal.
Elizabeth's body was brought to London on Tuesday from Scotland where it had remained since her death last week at her Scottish summer home Balmoral Castle.
Her coffin now lies in the centre of Westminster Hall on a purple catafalque placed on a red platform. It was covered by the Royal Standard flag and topped with the Imperial State Crown placed on a cushion, alongside a wreath of flowers.
Soldiers and 'Beefeaters' - the red-coated warders usually found guarding the Tower of London - stand constant vigil with bowed heads.
"Late yesterday evening, I made a snap decision to wake up really early and come here. I wanted to be part of history," said Paul Frances, 72, one of those who came to pay their respects.
(Reporting by Humza Jilani, Estelle Shirbon, Farouq Suleiman, Alistair Smout, Angus MacSwan, William James, Kate Holton, Kylie MacLellan and Elizabeth Piper, Editing by Janet Lawrence, William Maclean)