William and Harry lead coffin vigil
Thousands wait for long hours to pay last respects to Queen Elizabeth II
Published: Sep 18, 2022 09:43 PM
Queen Elizabeth II's eight grandchildren mounted a vigil around her coffin on Saturday.

King Charles III's sons Prince William and Prince Harry stood guard around the crowned casket in London's Westminster Hall as members of the public, who had waited several hours to file past the catafalque, paid their last respects.

Queen Elizabeth's grandchildren, aged from 44 to 14, stood silently with their eyes lowered.

Harry - who did two tours with the British Army in Afghanistan - wore the uniform of the Blues and Royals cavalry regiment in which he served.

The move appeared to be the latest olive branch offered by King Charles toward his youngest son after Harry and his wife Meghan, now living in California, accused the royal family of racism.

No longer a working royal, Harry, 38, was stripped of his higher-ranking honorary military titles. The vigil will be the only time he will be seen in military dress at royal ceremonial occasions.

William and Harry, Prince Andrew's daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Princess Anne's children Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall, and Prince Edward's children Louise and James silently stood guard around their grandmother's casket.

Edward's wife Sophie looked grief-stricken as she watched their children, 18 and 14 respectively, take on the most arduous public duty they have ever faced.

The personal sorrow of the queen's family has been playing out in the glare of intense international attention.

Beatrice and Eugenie paid a heartfelt tribute to "our dearest Grannie" shortly before the vigil.

"We, like many, thought you'd be here forever," the sisters said in a statement. "And we all miss you terribly.

"You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world... For now dear Grannie, all we want to say is thank you."

They added, "We're so happy you're back with Grandpa" - her husband Prince Philip, who died in 2021 aged 99.

The vigil came hours after King Charles and his heir William staged an unscheduled London walkabout to thank those queueing overnight to pay their last respects.

"It means an awful lot that you're all here," William's Twitter account said afterward.

Queen Elizabeth's death on September 8, aged 96, after a record-breaking 70 years on the throne, has sparked an outpouring of emotion.

Tens of thousands of people are braving waits that have stretched to more than 25 hours to file past her flag-shrouded coffin.

Some 435 people in the queue have needed medical treatment, often for head injuries after fainting, the London Ambulance Service said.