‘An amazing lady': Last person to see the Queen lying in state pays tribute as queue closes

19 September 2022, 06:40 | Updated: 19 September 2022, 07:52

Chrissy Heerey (left) was the last member of the public to see Queen Elizabeth lying in state.
Chrissy Heerey (left) was the last member of the public to see Queen Elizabeth lying in state. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The last person to see the Queen lying in state has said it was an "honour" as she paid her respects to the "irreplaceable" late monarch.

The Queen's lying in state at Westminster Hall shut to the public at 6.30am on Monday ahead of the late monarch's state funeral.

Queen Elizabeth II had been lying in state since last Wednesday, when her coffin was transferred from Buckingham Palace in order to allow mourners to pay their respects.

Thousands descended on the capital, with the queue exceeding five miles in length and a 24-hour wait on occasion.

The last person in the queue was Chrissy Heerey, from near High Wycombe, who bowed her head in silence as she approached the coffin.

It was the second time she had viewed the Queen's lying in state in 24 hours.

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At 6.29am on the day of her funeral the final members of the public pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II.
At 6.29am on the day of her funeral the final members of the public pay their respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. Picture: Alamy

Ms Heerey, who is currently serving with the Royal Air Force (RAF), said it was an "honour" and called the late monarch an "amazing lady who will never be replaced".

She said: "I was the last person to pay my respects to the Queen and it felt like a real privilege to do that.

"I'd already been round once, I went in at 1.15 this morning.

"It's one of the highlights of my life and I feel very privileged to be here."

She plans to stay in London to watch the funeral and says queueing for a total of 14 hours was time "well spent".

Read more: Full order of service for Her Majesty the Queen's state funeral

Read more: How Britain will say farewell to its Queen: Full schedule of Elizabeth II's state funeral

Chrissy Heerey who serves in the Royal Air Force and is from High Wycombe was the last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state.
Chrissy Heerey who serves in the Royal Air Force and is from High Wycombe was the last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state. Picture: Alamy

The second last person to see the Queen lying in state was Sima Mansouri, 55, originally from Iran, who lives in South Croydon, London.

Her love for the Queen dates back to the 1970s, when her cousin was a flower girl for a royal visit in Tehran.

Ms Mansouri said: "It was a boiling hot day and my poor cousin has got very fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes.

"The Queen came out of her plane and was more concerned with my cousin burning in the sun than being a royal."

"She said, 'Can someone please get this little girl out of the sun?' Then she kissed her and grabbed the flowers.

"I thought it was amazing."

Members of parliamentary staff followed Sima and Chrissy, with Black Rod Sarah Clarke the last to walk past the coffin.

Read more: Unseen portrait of smiling Queen unveiled ahead of funeral

Sima Mansouri, 55, who was the second last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state ahead of her funeral on Monday.
Sima Mansouri, 55, who was the second last person to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state ahead of her funeral on Monday. Picture: Alamy

The queue closed shortly after 10.30pm on Sunday, with hundreds of disappointed mourners reduced to tears when they were told they wouldn't be able to see the Queen lying in state.

Mourners have complained that they were given "false hope" after queuing through the night without wristbands.

Pauline Pearce, who queued in central London for seven hours, said "constant misinformation" was given to those in the queue.

Ms Pearce said: "All of us have felt angry today."

"We were sent from one point to another and living off the false hope that they might let us in. At one point they said they were going to open the gates, then suddenly they didn't. There was no empathy at all from the organisers."

Fiona Harper, 60, said organisation of the last night of queuing was characterised by "inaptitude" with confusion about where wristbands were to be handed out.

Ms Harper said: "The problem was that we were all lead to believe that you picked up your wristband at the end of the queue. So, we were querying for an hour and a half before they told us there were no more wristbands."

Since Thursday, hundreds of thousands of members of the public have filed past the coffin until, early on Monday morning, the final people who had queued through the night left the cavernous medieval hall.

The process has seen a river of people snaking along the Thames around the clock, members of the public mixing with celebrities and foreign dignitaries beneath Westminster Hall's hammer-beam roof.

Some bowed, some curtsied, others made the sign of the cross as they paused beside the coffin which was draped in the Royal Standard with the jewels in the Imperial State Crown, sceptre and orb, placed on top.

This story is being updated, more follows

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