It started when Twitter user @curiousiguana initiated a thread about “The Queue,” describing it as “a triumph of Britishness”:
In subsequent tweets, @curiousiguana explained why it was compelling (as a concept):
Just to be clear: I don’t mean the purpose of the queue. I don’t mean the outpouring of emotion or collective [grief] or the event at the end and around the queue or the people in the queue. I mean, literally, the queue. The queue itself. It’s like something from Douglas Adams.
It is the motherlode of queues. It is art. It is poetry. It is the queue to end all queues. It opened earlier today and is already 2.2 miles long. They will close it if it gets to FIVE MILES. That’s a queue that would take TWO HOURS TO WALK at a brisk pace.
It is a queue that goes right through the entirety of London. It has toilets and water points and websites just for The Queue.
You cannot leave The Queue. You cannot get into The Queue further down. You cannot hold places in The Queue. There are wristbands for The Queue.
Additional threaded tweets explained the apparent level of commitment required to join The Queue, various tools used to organize it, and the eventual culmination for participants:
Once you join The Queue you can expect to be there for days. But you cannot have a chair and a sleeping bag. There is no sleeping in The Queue, for The Queue moves constantly and steadily, day and night. You will be shuffling along at 0.1 miles per hour for days.
There is a YouTube channel, Twitter feed and Instagram page, each giving frequent updates about The Queue. Because the back of The Queue, naturally, keeps moving. To join The Queue requires up to the minute knowledge of where The Queue is now.
The BBC has live coverage of The Queue on BBC One, and a Red Button service showing the front bit of The Queue.
NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD JOIN THE QUEUE AND YET STILL THEY COME. “Oh, it’ll only be until 6am on Thursday, we can take soup”.
And the end of the queue is a box. You will walk past the box, slowly, but for no more than a minute. Then you will exit into the London drizzle and make your way home.
Tell me this isn’t the greatest bit of British performance art that has ever happened? I’m giddy with joy. It’s fantastic. We are a deeply, deeply mad people with an absolutely unshakeable need to join a queue. It’s utterly glorious.
On September 15 2022, The Queue was the topic of Reddit threads on r/videos and r/nextfuckinglevel (“People have been queuing all night in over 3 miles long queue to say the final goodbye to the Queen”):
Google Trends data measured a spike in searches for “The Queue” beginning on September 14 2022. Search interest continued rising the following day.
On September 15 2022, CNN published an explainer on The Queue, based on @curiousiguana’s viral Twitter thread, validating its claims and addressing some surprisingly complex logistics:
It snakes from Westminster Hall, where the late monarch’s body is lying in state, for miles along the south bank of the River Thames. It stretches past landmarks such as the London Eye (constructed at the turn of the millennium), the Royal Festival Hall (opened in 1951, the year before Princess Elizabeth’s accession to the throne) and the Globe theater (a throwback to a previous Elizabethan age). Plans are in place for it to be as long as nine miles, or 14.5 kilometers.
It may not be as fast-moving as another method of getting from one end of London to another [rail], but it does share a moniker — the Elizabeth line … The Queue passes Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, of which the British monarch is Supreme Governor. The current incumbent, Justin Welby, came out to bestow a personal blessing on The Queue and all who were waiting in it on Wednesday [September 14 2022], expressing a hope that they stayed warm and enjoyed each other’s company.
Each mourner is handed a special wristband indicating their position in The Queue, which is then inspected at various checkpoints along the route. In the unlikely event of someone attempting to jump The Queue, hundreds of police officers and marshals in high-vis vests are on hand to keep order.
British outlet inews.co.uk also provided dynamic information on The Queue, with links to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook queue trackers — but noted that interest in queueing appeared to already surpass capacity for viewing during the period of Queen Elizabeth II’s lying in state:
Mourners queued overnight in their thousands after the Queen’s coffin was brought to Westminster Hall [on September 14 2022] for her lying-in-state.
Officials reportedly estimate that 350,000 people will be able to view the Queen’s coffin before the queue closes to mourners at 6.30am on Monday [September 19 2022] – the day of her funeral.
But up to a million people could make their way to join the queue according to some estimates, with tens of thousands set to miss out, after warnings that waiting times could reach 35 hours.
Here’s how long the queue is now, and all the information you need for viewing the Queen’s coffin.
A viral September 14 2022 Twitter thread by @curiousiguana described The Queue at length — detailing a very involved process for British citizens to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s lying in state. According to inews.co.uk, wait times in The Queue could be as long as 35 hours, with time for 350,000 participants to view the monarch’s coffin.
Officially, The Queue began forming on September 14 2022; at least one person began queueing two days early. UK-based outlet The Independent reported that participants would be “given numbered wristbands to indicate their place in the queue so they are able to leave and come back,” with bathroom visits permitted and “camping” prohibited.