Tens of thousands mourn death of Great Britain's Queen Mother

Monday, April 8, 2002

LONDON -- Tens of thousands of mourners stood in a giant, snaking line Sunday to pay their last respects to the Queen Mother, undeterred by waits of up to 12 hours, as churches across Britain gave thanks for the life of the royal matriarch.

The huge, and unexpected, demand from the public to say farewell to the Queen Mother Elizabeth prompted officials to extend the opening hours of Westminster Hall until dawn on Tuesday -- just hours before the coffin is to be carried in procession to nearby Westminster Abbey for the funeral service.

Roger and Wendy Wood set off from their home in central England in the middle of the night to join the line to view the coffin.

"We got here at 4 a.m. and we don't mind waiting until whatever time we get in to see the coffin because we want to show our respect and support for the monarchy," he said.

Officials said about 200,000 people had filed through the hall by late Sunday, with an additional 70,000 people still waiting outside in a four-mile line.

Ambulance staff warned of cold temperatures again Sunday night after the thermometer dropped to 39 degrees Saturday, with chill winds whipping off the River Thames. Volunteer staff served more than 30,000 gallons of tea and coffee to people waiting in line.

Queen Elizabeth II is expected to thank all those who have lined up to pay their respects when she gives a public eulogy on national television for her mother, who died March 30 at the age of 101.

Churches across the country held special services Sunday to celebrate the life of the Queen Mother.

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