Wanstead resident Michelle Linaker pays tribute to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, reflecting on her 12-hour queue to see the late monarch lying in state and marking the end of an era
The Queen has just always been there. I remember when I was younger, sitting at a huge, long table with everyone in the street eating jam sandwiches and gazing at Union Jack flags and bunting. The riot of colour was so exciting for a young child. The Queen’s Jubilee was a day that brought everybody together and, to me, that’s something the Queen, even in her death, has continued to do.
Nobody can say she didn’t serve her country above herself. She helped bring peace in Northern Ireland, her passion was the Commonwealth and was it really an accident that she passed away in Scotland, or was she just reminding the Scots of her love and the desire for our countries to stay together?
Harry and William greeting the crowds together felt like a huge step forward, and I hope they heal the rifts between them. Charles professing his love for Harry and Meghan really moved me, despite the cynicism of people saying his comment about continuing their life together abroad meant he was banishing them. I took it as a sign of acceptance.
The Queen has given so much of herself, it felt only right to drag myself out of bed at 2.30am to go and pay my last respects as she lay in state. You can’t help feeling there’s a sense of completeness and her time had come. Whilst deeply sad, it was a life well lived and I’m grateful she had a quick and peaceful end. Typical of her to work until the final day. I think the thing that saddens me more is that in my and my children’s lifetime there will never be another queen. She has been part of my life since I was born. A strong, female role model; warm, kind, tough and a lover of animals.
So, I arrive at Tower Bridge at 4am and get my gold wristband. Some 16,000 steps and 12 hours of waiting lay ahead before paying my respects to our late Queen Elizabeth II. The atmosphere in the queue is jovial and there is a strong sense of community; stoic waiting, aching backs and tired legs. As we get nearer to Westminster Hall, the atmosphere changes and butterflies riot in my stomach. The laughter and camaraderie of the queue have fallen away and the sadness seeps in.
I’m finally going to say goodbye to the nation’s grandmother. It’s hard to explain how it feels as you enter the hall. I stood at the top of the steps surveying the scene below. It’s almost surreal. I feel like I’ve stepped into a painting. The grandeur of the hall, the beautiful, yet tiny crown. The guards look impressive on TV, but in real life, their stillness is eerie and they look like they are carved in stone. It was moving and emotional and well worth the wait. As I stood there, I thought of the WH Auden poem Stop All The Clocks. A part of history, the end of an era.
Goodbye, ma’am. We’ll meet again.
For more information on the life of Queen Elizabeth II, visit wnstd.com/queen