Thursday marks the first full day of Queen Elizabeth II's lying in state — the last chance to say a personal farewell to Britain's longest-serving monarch.

The grand procession through the flag-lined heart of London represents the latest step in 11 days of national mourning that will culminate with the funeral.
The grand procession through the flag-lined heart of London represents the latest step in 11 days of national mourning that will culminate with the funeral. (Reuters)

Thousands have queued to pay their last respects to Queen Elizabeth II, with many choking back tears after seeing her coffin lying in state in London.

Britain's longest-serving monarch, who died on September 8 aged 96 after 70 years on the throne, is at rest in the capital's Westminster Hall ahead of Monday's state funeral at Westminster Abbey.

After waiting in all weathers for more than 48 hours the first public mourners were allowed into the vast medieval hall on Wednesday and into Thursday after the coffin left Buckingham Palace for the last time, in a ceremonial procession witnessed by tens of thousands.

Thursday marks the first full day of Queen Elizabeth II's lying in state — the last chance to say a personal farewell to the queen.

The casket, draped in the Royal Standard flag and bearing the Imperial State Crown plus the Orb and Sceptre, was raised high on a platform, with tall, flickering candles at each corner.

The coffin was being guarded by soldiers in ceremonial uniform, in a constant vigil.

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'People in tears'

In sombre scenes, many people stopped and bowed or curtsied towards the coffin. Others crossed themselves or removed their hats.

Some prayed towards the casket or wiped away tears with tissues. Some brought their infants in pushchairs. Old soldiers stopped and gave one last salute to their former commander-in-chief.

Sue Harvey, 50, an accountant, was among those in tears after filing past the coffin.

"Inside it was really quiet, really calm, and incredibly emotional. A lot of people were in tears but there was a total silence. It was just so respectful," she told the AFP news agency.

"I wanted to make sure I did see her no matter how long the queue was going to be, because I never met her when she was alive."

The queue snaked back for nearly five kilometres along the Thames river bank on Wednesday evening as mourners braved hours of waiting for their chance to see the late monarch.

READ MORE: Crowds converge as London prepares to parade queen's coffin

King Charles and sons pay last tribute

The coffin had been taken to Westminster Hall from Buckingham Palace earlier on Wednesday.

To the strains of a military band playing funeral marches, King Charles III led the royal family in procession behind a horse-drawn gun carriage bearing the casket.

King Charles — Queen Elizabeth's eldest son — his siblings, and his own sons, Princes William and Harry, walked at a carefully choreographed 75 steps a minute behind the gun carriage.

The sight of the new king's two grief-stricken sons inevitably evoked memories of 1997, when William and Harry, then aged just 15 and 12, walked, heads bowed, behind the coffin of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

From the Elizabeth Tower at the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben bell tolled out each minute as the casket passed in front of hushed crowds lining the route.

The grand procession through the flag-lined heart of London represented the latest step in 11 days of national mourning that will culminate with the funeral.

READ MORE: King Charles III escorts queen's coffin procession in Scotland

Source: AFP