THE queue for miles to see the Queen’s coffin is a “political” event which is aimed at defining a particular vision of the country, as well as involving personal grieving, according to psychologists.

While many have waited for hours to attend the lying in state because of sadness over the of loss of the Queen, widespread claims this reflects a nation united in grief are “problematic”, experts have said.

Researchers are studying the crowds which have turned out to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth and accession of King Charles, including at events held in Edinburgh and London.

Waiting times to see the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall stretched to more than 25 hours overnight on Friday, with the queue stretching to around five miles long.

Yesterday afternoon, King Charles and Prince William made a surprise visit to see those waiting in line.

Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, said the narrative from a large part of the media was about mourning the Queen and being “united in grief”, but there was a variety of reasons why people were there.

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“There is a representation which tells us these crowds represent a particular sense of Britishness – unified Britishness and a Britishness which not only reveres the Queen, but also supports the monarchy,” he said.

“And even if you don’t believe it, if you are told everybody else believes it, if you are given this image of a nation united in support for monarch and monarchy, it becomes very difficult to challenge it and people are silenced.

“I think one of the things which is happening is that narrow sense of the nation means certain voices can’t be heard and certain things can’t be said and in a sense respect for the Queen, turns into respect for the monarchy – which turns into an impossibility of raising questions about it.”

Reicher (above) said many people were genuinely grieving the Queen and it would be wrong to deny the “personal” aspect of it.

But he said claims the crowd were united around one issue and that it represents the nation were “problematic”.

He added: “It is also intensely political as these ceremonials, these acts of state aren’t just a reflection of the country.

“If you look at research on many commemorative events, they are about forming and structuring and defining identity as well, and defining a particular vision of society and of relations in society.

“This is an intensely personal experience and it is an intensely political event – and it is the tying of the personal and the political together which makes it very powerful.”

When it comes to why people are prepared to queue for so long, Reicher said that there

were similarities to religious pilgrimages.

“By doing the pilgrimage you affirm your religious identity – by going on pilgrimage in the queue, you affirm your national identity and your sense of belonging,” he said.

“The very fact it is gruelling is part of what makes it an affirmation – if it was easy, then it really isn’t an affirmation.

“So it is almost as if the hardship is part of what makes it meaningful.”

Reicher said many people who identify very strongly as British see the Queen is an embodiment of Britishness and part of their identity, so her death is experienced as a personal loss.

For others, the royal family acts as a “canvas” on which to project their own issues and will be mourning losses in their own family through the Queen.

But some of the crowd will be participating in events surrounding the Queen’s death just to be part of history, or to watch the spectacle of the ceremonies even though they may not be particularly royalist.

Reicher said the sharing of the experience with others was also one of the reasons why people were turning up in mass numbers.

He added: “We have carried out research for other mass gatherings which shows that not only do people enjoy it, it is good for their physical and mental health, it gives them a sense that they live in a society where strangers might not be a problem, but might be there for them.

“It increases their sense of coping, it lowers stress, improves physical and mental health. The joy of the crowd actually is one of the things that keeps people going and if you have experienced it before, you want to experience it again.

“So another motivation for being there is just the simple pleasure of being there.”

Michael Cholbi, professor and personal chair in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, whose research includes examining the response to deaths of public figures, said some people would be participating in the “rituals” of mourning even if they are not grieving in any “emotionally resonant” way.

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He said: “In my work I defend the idea that we grieve for celebrities and public figures and the like mainly because those individuals become part of our own identities, they become part of our own sense of ourselves.

“The Queen is a symbol for many of Britain and perhaps for those who identify as British, or with Britain, they are grieving someone who they identify as an important commitment or value of their own.

“Perhaps others are grieving as the Queen is a quasi-maternal figure in their life – they may remember her Christmas addresses and so forth, she is a kind of maternal presence in their lives.

“Perhaps for others they are grieving something symbolic – a connection to the era of British past, the late Imperial, early Commonwealth years. So people can be grieving for different reasons, despite the fact it is the Queen’s death that is the cause of their grieving.”

Cholbi added: “It always interesting to see how the deaths of prominent public figures open up wider discussions about why we grieve as individuals.

“The Queen’s death can’t but be to some extent a political event – some people are grieving her death and some people are not and that speaks to a very wide range of different relationships that people have with her.

“For some she is a revered figure, a maternal figure, or a role model for what Britishness ought to be. There are others who are indifferent to the Queen. Then there of course is a segment of the population who view her as a representation of perhaps a unjust institution, something we should consign to the past.”