Watch as North East mourners describe their ‘incredible’ experience as they gather in London for Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral
“For that moment, it was just me and my Queen” – the words of County Durham royalist Anita Atkinson after visiting Elizabeth II lying-in-state, ahead of attending the Queen’s funeral with friend and former mayor of Peterlee, Mary Cartwright.
Anita, who founded the Royal Museum in Weardale, felt compelled to travel to the capital after the sad passing of Her Majesty on September 8 and has described the following 10 days of national mourning as a emotional roller-coaster “of highs and lows”.
She was joined by Mary, who described her experience in London leading up to today’s (September 19) state funeral as “incredible”.
Speaking ahead of the funeral, Anita, 65, said: “It has been a week of ups and downs. I’m not an outwardly emotional person, but in the beginning I just kept bursting into tears.
"I’ve experienced a whole spectrum of emotions like never before in my 65 years. I just felt like I needed to be here. At this moment being here is the most important thing in my life.”
Earlier this week, Anita queued for eight hours to see Queen Elizabeth II lying-in-state after travelling across London on her granddaughter’s scooter.
She said: “Everyone in the queue was really helpful and we made lots of friends. Everyone wants to be here to thank the Queen for what she did in her lifetime.
"The second I passed into Westminster Hall and saw the coffin with the jewels twinkling in the crown, it made everything real. At the moment I walked alongside the coffin in was just me and my Queen and this was my final audience with her.
"She was not just the Queen of the UK and head of the Commonwealth but was know as ‘The Queen’ to the whole of the world. I queued for eight hours but it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been 80.”
Anita was joined on Saturday (September 17) by friend and Peterlee Town Councillor, Mary Cartwright. At 2am this morning, the pair left the house of a friend they had been staying with to travel to Westminster ahead of the funeral.
Mary, who has been a supporter of the Royal Family all her life, first encountered the Queen as a four-year-old during a visit from the monarch to the North East. Later in her life she was invited to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace, where she met Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip – a moment she described as the “highlight” of her life.
Speaking ahead of the funeral Mary said: “It’s been incredible to be here and I’m so pleased I took the time off work to travel down. It will be great to be part of it and everyone is here for the same reason, which is to thank the Queen for everything she has done during her life.
"I’m also proud of King Charles who has really stepped up to the mark and is going to be an amazing king.”
Anita added: “Like when anyone dies, they get all these accolades. It’s just a pity we don’t tell people when they are alive.”