Minister reveals 250,000 managed to see the Queen in Westminster Hall

Minister reveals around 250,000 people managed to pay their respects to the Queen at Westminster Hall – with heavy security blamed for hold-ups and swipes that figure of 320,000 for Churchill’s lying in state was inflated by Parliamentary chiefs

  • Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said more than 250,000 saw lying in state
  • Figure not finalised but is below some initial estimates for 400,000 people
  • Heavier security being blamed along with swipes at accuracy of previous figures
  • The Queen’s funeral: All the latest Royal Family news and coverage

Around a quarter of a million people were able to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state – lower than the 400,000 some had estimated.

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan gave the figure after the former monarch was laid to rest in an emotional day of pomp and ceremony yesterday.

However, it immediately sparked questions about the arrangements for the Westminster Hall tributes. 

The Parliament website says 320,000 people viewed Winston Churchill’s coffin at his lying in state in 1965, which lasted for three days rather than four and a half this time. Some 300,000 are said to have paid respects to George VI in 1952.

Sources pointed to airport-style security requirements as one factor, and also suggested the tally – which has yet to be finalised – was much more ‘robust’ than for previous events.

One source told MailOnline that historical estimates need to be treated with a ‘pinch of salt’. ‘It seems there has been a never-ending ratchet by previous Black Rods to want each number to increase every time there is a lying in state,’ they said. 

Around a quarter of a million people were able to pay their respects to the Queen lying in state – lower than the 400,000 some had estimated

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan gave the figure after the former monarch was laid to rest in an emotional day of pomp and ceremony yesterday

The queue itself became the subject of intense interest, with David Beckham (pictured centre) among those who waited in line for hours

Ms Donelan described the queue for Westminster Hall as ‘phenomenal’, as she paid tribute to the volunteers who helped manage and support the proceedings of recent days, including the lying-in-state.

She told Sky News ‘more than 250,000’ viewed the coffin but officials were still ‘crunching the final numbers’. 

The queue itself became the subject of intense interest, with David Beckham among those who waited in line for hours. It is understood the rate at which it moved fluctuated significantly, with the weather and staff getting used to the system among the factors.   

Ms Donelan told BBC Breakfast: ‘There’s no dress rehearsal is there for this kind of scenario. It has been in the plans for years, but obviously we stress-tested everything and worked with community groups.’

She praised the help of the Samaritans, the Red Cross, the police and establishments across the South Bank that opened their doors to those queuing.

‘It was a real team effort to enable people to have that moment to say goodbye and I want to pay tribute to everybody that was involved – all the volunteers, all the marshals, the stewards, it was incredible.’

Ms Donelan said that most British people would see the cost of the Queen’s funeral as ‘money well spent’, but could not put a figure on what that cost might be.

Pressed on Sky News about the cost of the funeral, she said: ‘I’m not sure of the exact costings but as I say, I think the British public would argue that that was money well spent.

‘You saw so many thousands out there and I don’t think anybody can suggest that our late monarch didn’t deserve that send-off, given the duty and the selfless service that she committed to over 70 years.’

She said it would be ‘downright preposterous’ to suggest otherwise.

‘It was great sense of the community coming together. I always think of our late monarch as the glue that brought society together,’ she added.

King Charles III decreed on September 9, the day after the Queen died following her 70-year reign, that a period of mourning would be observed until seven days after the funeral.

Members of the royal family are not expected to carry out official engagements, and flags at royal residences will remain at half-mast until 8am after the final day of royal mourning.

They have been left bereft by the death of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and at times their grief was palpable with Charles looking emotional and close to tears at the state funeral.

The Countess of Wessex was also seen weeping during the long day as was the Duchess of Sussex, who returned with the Duke of Sussex to the royal family to share their grief.

But Charles and his family have been consoled by the support and love they have received from the public, including the tens of thousands who turned out to watch the late monarch’s funeral procession make its slow journey through the capital and on to Windsor Castle for the committal service.

The Queen was finally laid to rest with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh during a private evening burial service attended just by close family.

The family’s website said it was conducted by the Dean of Windsor, adding that the Queen was buried together with Philip at The King George VI Memorial Chapel.

The royal Twitter account published a picture of the Queen taken at Balmoral in 1971, with the words: ‘May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest. In loving memory of Her Majesty The Queen.’

The quote is from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and was said by Charles in his speech to MPs and peers on September 12.

The day of the funeral was filled with personal touches, with the wreath adorning the Queen’s coffin featuring a handwritten note from the King, saying: ‘In loving and devoted memory. Charles R.’

Charles had requested the floral tribute which replaced a wreath of Balmoral flowers with foliage and blooms cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Highgrove.

British Naval Officers stand vigil by the coffin of Winston Churchill at Westminster Hall in January 1965

Part of the queue to see Churchill lying in state in 1965

The simple committal service at St George’s Chapel contrasted with the earlier state funeral, with the Queen’s close staff represented, including her senior dresser and personal adviser Angela Kelly, alongside individuals such as Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The state funeral at Westminster Abbey was attended by dignitaries including hundreds of heads of state, and with London full with mourners the event called for the largest policing operation undertaken by the Metropolitan Police.

Among the 2,000-strong congregation at the abbey were foreign royalty, leading figures from UK life and world leaders including US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

No date has been fixed for the coronation of Charles, and Ms Donelan said decisions on plans for that event had not yet been made.

Asked whether the proceedings should be scaled down due to the cost-of-living crisis, she told LBC that ‘of course, we will be considering everything, but we haven’t made these decisions yet’.

She said the Queen’s coronation had been a ‘remarkable event’, and recalled ‘how the country came together’ for the Jubilee celebrations, adding that such occasions ‘can in many ways boost the economy as well’.

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