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Huge London crowds pay respect to Queen Elizabeth

Under fair skies, hundreds of thousands of Britons lined the streets for a solemn royal procession that took the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where her body will lie in state for four days until her funeral.

(CN) — A somber royal procession took the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where the matriarch's body will lie in state until her funeral on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners lined the streets of London to pay their respects to a queen whose 70-year reign came to define Great Britain in the post-World War II era. She died last Friday at the age of 96.

King Charles III and other members of the royal family solemnly walked behind the coffin, which was borne on a gun carriage draped in a royal flag and adorned with a wreath of flowers and imperial state crown.

The procession passed down some of London's most storied avenues and brought tears to many in the public who attended the historic event.

The procession marked the passing of the queen's body from the privacy of the royal family to the public realm. Enormously long lines were growing as the public gathered outside Westminster Hall to be able to individually pay respects to their departed monarch. Mourners were told to expect waits of up to 24 hours for a viewing of the queen's coffin, which will remain closed.

London is set to become the focus of the world over the next five days as more than 100 heads of state, including U.S. President Joe Biden, journey to the British capital to attend farewell events and the funeral of Elizabeth, one of the world's most beloved figures.

Wednesday's procession was meticulously planned by Britain's military with the renowned red-uniformed Buckingham Palace royal guards playing a central role.

People gather for the procession of the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in London on Wednesday Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

The procession – accompanied by somber marching music, cannon fire and the ringing of Big Ben's bell – somberly walked from the royal grounds around Buckingham Palace to the grounds of the Houses of Parliament, where Westminster Hall is located. It is the oldest building on the parliamentary estate and played a central role in British history with many of Britain's major institutions – Parliament, law courts and government offices – growing up around it.

Elizabeth died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Buckingham Palace said the cherished and beloved queen died “peacefully” with her eldest son, Charles, at her side. Shortly after her death, Charles was declared king.

She was beloved by world leaders and millions of people for her many good attributes, including her warm smile, humility and sense of humor.

Her death marked the end of an era not just for Britain but for the world. When she ascended to the throne following her father's early death in 1952, Stalin was still in power in the Soviet Union and Harry Truman was U.S. president.

Over the course of her reign, Elizabeth traveled extensively as she tried to ease the slow dismantling of the British empire following World War II and forge relations with leaders around the globe.

Among her more memorable trips, she visited the Great Wall of China in 1986 and the Kremlin in 1994. She toured the United States in 1957, a trip that included lunch with Herbert Hoover, the former president, in New York City.

The British monarch is the head of state not only in the U.K. but also in 14 other former colonies, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica and a number of smaller island nations.

She met 13 of the past 14 American presidents and helped cement the so-called “special relationship” between the U.S. and Britain. The only president she didn't meet was Lyndon B. Johnson.

Biden ordered American flags to be lowered to half-staff at the White House and at all public buildings, grounds, military posts, naval stations, naval vessels, and overseas embassies and consular offices until sunset Monday, the day of her burial.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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