'I Waited in Line to See the Queen's Coffin 3 Times—but I'm Not a Royalist'

I'm not a massive royalist, but I was taken aback by the Queen's death. She's always been there, as the head of the monarchy, my whole life.

So when my mom and I heard about the line to pay respects at the Queen's coffin, we said: we've got to go and do it. If we didn't do it, we'd regret it.

It was a once in a lifetime event—although, in my case, it was a three times in a lifetime event, as I waited in line for between 10 and 13 hours, three days in a row.

The first time, my mom and I arrived at Southwark Park at 11.30 p.m. on September 15, 2022. The line was a bit chaotic—it would bottleneck and go from being four-people to eight-people wide. But nobody seemed frustrated; everyone was just there to pay their respects.

Sam Mason
Sam Mason after leaving the line for the third time. Mason wears three wristbands, one for each time he waited in line.

We got some cheers from members of the public who walked past. We also got some boos. Some people said, "Why are you waiting in line? This is a disgrace." Other members of the public shouted abuse at people who jumped the line.

It took 12 hours and 15 minutes to get through to the end. I didn't have to take time off work, as I was between jobs at the time. I gave the Queen a nod for her service, and then went home.

I took an hour-long train and got back to my home in Uxbridge at 1 p.m. and had two hours' sleep before I had to get up to have my car serviced. My cousin messaged me and said he wanted to join the line but no one would go with him. So that night, I agreed to accompany him and I rejoined the line at 8 p.m.

Re-entering the line

No one found it mad that I had waited in line the first time. It was only when I did it the second time that my friends thought I was crazy.

I was meant to meet my cousin there, but he joined the line much later. By the time he joined, they had changed the color of the wristbands we had to wear, so he couldn't join me. I'd already made friends in the line, too, so I didn't want to go to the back of the line.

Even though I was only in the line to keep my cousin company, I didn't want to go home after we were separated. Once you're in that line, you're committed. You feel you might as well see it through to the end.

Everyone made friends with the people around them. I met a nice group of people—one was in his late twenties, like me, one was 16 and there with his mom, and there was one who looked around 60. We were all from different walks of life. I work in construction, two worked in the hospital field, one was a mother. We wouldn't have ever met in any other type of way if it wasn't for standing next to each other in a line for hours on end.

Sam Mason with Line Friends
Sam Mason with some of the friends he met in the line. Mason stood alongside them for 13 hours, as they waited to pay their respects to the Queen. Courtesy of Sam Mason

I enjoyed the gossip and finding out about different people's lives, their experiences and what brought them there. They mainly said the same as me—that they would regret it if they didn't come and do it.

We looked out for each other—if someone needed to go to the toilet, or get some food or coffee from the coffee shop, which was the only thing open all night, we'd hold their place in the line.

We sat on the floor and leant against the walls. Anywhere you could sit, people were sitting, because your legs just hurt. I was extremely tired. The second line was 13 hours' long but I couldn't sleep. It was really cold.

Yet the second line felt like it went quicker than the first one—because once you'd done it once, you knew what was coming up and where you were going. You had a rough sense of how long was left to go.

But nobody ever commented on how long we were there for. No one was saying, "Oh, we've been here for four hours, this is a joke." I think everyone there knew they were signing up for a long wait.

The third and final time

After paying my respects to the Queen a second time, I left Westminster at 10 a.m. and took an hour-long train home, where I washed and changed. A friend messaged me: "You've done it once, you've done it twice, you might as well go three times." At first I refused, but then I heard that my friend's mom wanted to go and nobody wanted to do it with her.

So I decided to join the line a third time, but this time I did it for charity. I made a post on Facebook, asking my friends to donate to Macmillan Cancer Support. The Queen reigned for 70 years so I thought, well, she did so much for charity, why don't I do my little part?

I don't know how much people donated, but the fact I was now doing this for a cancer charity made me more determined. The third line was the shortest—about 10 hours—but it felt like the longest, because I was extremely exhausted. I hadn't slept from the night before, and my legs were aching.

The third and final time I saw the Queen's coffin, I gave her a little bow. Paying my respects to the Queen was a unique experience. It felt different for everyone. But for me it felt like being a part of history, marking the end of an era.

Sam Mason, 29, is a scaffolder who lives in Uxbridge, England. He waited in line the third time to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Katie Russell.