LONDON: “The night was cool but it’s worth it”: like Carole Budd, the most fervent worshipers of Elizabeth II have already pitched their tent in central London to find themselves in the front row of her grandiose funeral on Monday.
While more than a million people were expected in London, this 65-year-old schoolteacher is camping opposite Westminster Hall, where the sovereign’s coffin is on public display, and Westminster Abbey where the his state funeral in front of 2,000 guests.
“I attended Lady Di’s funeral when I was a teenager, just outside Westminster Abbey and the atmosphere was incredible,” Magdalena Staples, 38, who is part of the small group of campers, told AFP. installed in Parliament Square.
“I wanted my children to have the same experience,” continues the mother, who came especially with her children aged 9 and 10 from Yorkshire, in the north of England.
The family was dislodged several times before finally being allowed to put their belongings at the foot of Big Ben. She will have slept three nights in a narrow azure blue tent placed on a bit of sidewalk.
At this location, colorful tents are tolerated, but makeshift campers are asked to fold them up during the day, so as not to clutter the already crowded street, a police officer told AFP.
Equipped with warm clothes and thermoses of coffee, fans of the royal family have had time to get to know each other, and are now passing the time by sharing sweets and memories of their late sovereign.
A different atmosphere
Along the Mall, avenue leading to Buckingham Palace where tents are not allowed this time, Linda Keeble, 59, will sleep, with her husband Ray, on a simple folding chair to be sure to see the funeral procession on Monday.
The coffin, on a gun carriage, will parade after the ceremony to Hyde Park where it will be transferred in a hearse to reach its final resting place in Windsor, west of the capital.
“We couldn’t book a hotel room so we’ll be spending the next two nights outside. We’ve provided rain gear and plenty of blankets, and there are toilets nearby,” she explains, wrapped up in a thick gray vest.
The couple was already present on the famous avenue during the queen’s jubilees and royal weddings, but this time, the atmosphere is very different, notes Linda Keeble.
With a lump in her throat, she underlines by pointing to them that the ropes suspended at the level of the flags which overhang the artery are black, and not “gold, white or red” as during other ceremonies. “It proves the solemnity of the moment”, she underlines, two days before the queen begins her last journey.