LONDON — They forged a friendship that will “last forever” while saying farewell to Queen Elizabeth II.
Chrissy Heerey, a member of the Royal Air Force, was the last of the legion of mourners to file past the former monarch’s coffin when the doors to London’s Westminster Hall were finally closed at 6:30 a.m. local time (1:30 a.m. ET) Monday.
Just ahead of her was Sima Mansouri, who said she had idolized the queen since the 1970s when she was a little girl in Iran.
“I was the last person to pay my respects to the queen and it felt like a real privilege to do that,” said Heerey, who traveled to London from Melton Mowbray, a small town around 120 miles north of Britain’s capital.
“It’s one of the highlights of my life and I feel very privileged to be here,” added Heerey, who made the 5-mile trek from Southwark Park to Westminster not once, but twice.
It was on Heerey’s second trip that she met Mansouri among the tens of thousands of mourners, and as they trudged through the night along the banks of the River Thames to see the queen’s coffin the pair became firm friends.
“It’s a friendship that will last forever,” Heerey said. “We shared this together.”
“That’s what makes this special,” added Mansouri, 55, who made the short journey from Croydon in south London to join the line and pay her respects to Elizabeth, who died Sept. 8 at age 96, and had been lying in state since Wednesday.
Some mourners waited 12 hours or more for the chance to file past her coffin.
Heerey and Mansouri found each other just after 1 a.m. Monday, they told Britain’s Press Association news agency in a separate interview.
Mansouri said her love for the monarch began as a child when Elizabeth visited Iran. She said her cousin was one of the queen’s official greeters and presented her flowers.
Mansouri, who is employed by Pfizer, added that she moved to the United Kingdom 25-years-ago.
“I call this place home and she made me feel like I was home here,” Mansouri said of the queen. “I always looked up to her.”
Hundreds of thousands of members of the public filed past the coffin after it was placed in the cavernous medieval hall Wednesday evening. Many lined up through the night to pay their final respects to Elizabeth who reigned for 70 years.