Royal fans camp out ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral: NPR

Groups of people camp outside Buckingham Palace in London.

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Groups of people camp outside Buckingham Palace in London.

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On the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, in the shadow of Big Ben, people gathered in the area near Parliament to observe a nationwide moment of reflection.

After a minute of silence, followed by a warm round of cheers and applause, much of the crowd quickly dispersed – save for those who would be spending the night on the sidewalk.

Dozens of groups had set up tents, sleeping bags, folding chairs and towers of pizza boxes along the blocked street where the Queen’s coffin will travel on Monday. Camping before a royal event is a beloved tradition for some and a must-have for others, but special for all.

Michelle Larsen, 42, traveled from Oregon with her daughter and mother, with whom she spent many late nights watching royal events on television. They booked their flights to London the same day the Queen died.

Michelle Larsen, 42, poses for a photo with her child McKinley Larsen, 11, and mother Barbara Tuma, 67, where they camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

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Michelle Larsen, 42, poses for a photo with her child McKinley Larsen, 11, and mother Barbara Tuma, 67, where they camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

“It was [in] our thought process like, ‘Hey, she’s lived a long life…so if this is happening and we can go for it, let’s do it,'” she told NPR.

They were particularly excited to experience such an event among the British people, and said that so far it had not disappointed. They were surprised and impressed by the number of people who continue to show up to pay their respects and by the kindness and hospitality of everyone. Larsen’s mother, Barbara Tuma, 67, particularly appreciated testimonials from young women who admire the queen and see her as a grandmother-type figure (they are both called “Granny”, he said). she adds).

Members of the public camp behind barriers lining the motorcade route ahead of Monday’s funeral for Queen Elizabeth II in London.

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Members of the public camp behind barriers lining the motorcade route ahead of Monday’s funeral for Queen Elizabeth II in London.

Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images

“I’ve always admired her…and now I admire her even more,” Tuma said. “I have more respect for what King Charles is going to be.”

The trio booked a hotel room for the trip and packed sleeping bags in case they decided to go camping instead – which they did on Sunday evening. And they had lots of company.

Nearby, 24-year-old Bethany Harris was preparing for her second night of camping, and she noticed it seemed to be more crowded this time. NPR asked: What was it like sleeping there? She wouldn’t know.

“I slept for about an hour to about half past five this morning,” Harris told NPR. “There’s so much noise, there’s so much going on that you can’t sleep. It’s like there’s kind of an unexciting atmosphere, but there’s just an atmosphere of togetherness and stuff like that, it’s just really, really enjoyable.

His neighbor Michelle Berrisford, 64, agreed. She came alone because her daughters couldn’t come, and she spent much of the day bonding with Harris and her family.

“I went to Diana’s wedding, I went to her funeral, I went to Kate and William’s wedding, and I just had to come,” Berrisford said.

This time it’s totally different, she says, with fewer campers and a darker tone. She may not have known what to expect, but as a seasoned royal camper, she knew what to pack.

“No matter what time of year, always bring warm clothes, layer after layer after layer,” she said. “And a glass of wine.”

Hardish Purewal drinks a glass of bubbly next to her friend Loo Blackburn as they camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

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Hardish Purewal drinks a glass of bubbly next to her friend Loo Blackburn as they camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

Further along the pavement, a group of four women have created their own cozy set-up, with British streamers for decoration.

Hardish Purewal, Loo Blackburn and Rosie Johnson have been friends for over 20 years – since their now adult children were at school together – and Rosie’s daughter Ella has also joined them.

Rosie Johnson and her daughter Ella Johnson camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

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Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR


Rosie Johnson and her daughter Ella Johnson camp overnight outside Westminster Hall and the Houses of Parliament in London.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

They braved the cold, armed with jackets and gin, because they want to pay homage to the Queen – whom they consider one of a kind and “the nation’s grandmother”.

“Tomorrow is all about saying goodbye…and showing respect to an amazing, wonderful, strong woman,” Purewal told NPR.

They are also excited to see the procession, not only for world dignitaries, but for UK leaders and agencies who are also taking part. Blackburn added:

“It’s a real kind of celebration of all things British.”

About Jonathan J. Kramer

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