THE spectacle of The Queue, snaking its way through London like a massive gated airport system was an impressive one. People would queue in line for10 to 12 hours or more before spying the coffin lying in state at Westminster Hall.

This weird event – and its surround media, which some have dubbed ‘coffin TV’, sees no sign of reaching a crescendo. That moment may come tomorrow, with the funeral, but really, at this stage, who knows?

The Queue itself – as an idea and an activity – has been elevated to an art form and given special status as a thing that embodies Britishness, somehow. I think the idea is that we may be facing destitution, homelessness and abject poverty because of the ridiculous political decisions we have made, but boy can we queue.

The Queue is a signifier for our stoicism, politeness and sense of order. The queue-jumper is an abhorrent being who should be shunned with tutting, and if the act is particularly egregious, a hard stare.

But what’s going on for these marathon queuers whose ultimate goal is to nod, curtsy, bow or genuflect in front of the coffin surrounded by beefeaters and busby-wearing soldiers?

For Stephen Reicher, an expert on crowd psychology: “Those who identify strongly as British, and who see the Queen as the embodiment of Britishness, are attending for the simple reason that they see it as an obligation to do so. Attendance is an affirmation of who they are, and not attending would be a denial of their identity.

Moreover, as with any pilgrimage, the fact that it is gruelling is not off-putting. It is precisely what makes it a meaningful sign of commitment and belonging.”

This sounds right, the length of the Queue and the fact that the queuers can endure it with such fortitude is a measure of their Britishness. Many of the participants interviewed reflect on the silence within Westminster Hall, and the peace and calm of the experience.

It seems people are drawn to the ceremonial, some sense of the sacred, and to find meaning and be part of a collective experience. But in doing so here they seem to have been drawn to actively subjugating themselves publicly.

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Demeaning yourself by acting like a child or being overwhelmingly deferential doesn’t take away from the experience – that IS the experience.

Banality slides uncomfortably into solemnity as the bizarre phenomenon unspools.We’re on Day Five of the mourn fest and the Super Soaraway Sun has changed its colour palette to a more respectable purply-blue hue for its content which includes a “Queue tracker live” which tells us:

“Line to see Queen lying in state PAUSED for at least six hours as mourners face even BIGGER wait”.

This stunning content was brought to you by Nina Clevinger, Holly Beaumont, Catherine Micallef and Jack Elsom. That’s four of the paper’s top journalists being brought together to bring you rolling coverage of a queue.

It’s not clear at this stage the relationship between the participants in the experience and the media reporting it. They sort of blur in the middle in a miasma of platitude and vapid bromidic Britishness.

It’s both an extraordinary other-worldly experience and a hyper-dull one. It’s both a semi-spiritual event and one that’s characterised by people saying either the same thing over and over and over, or nothing at all.

The sense of threat, with the constant changing of guards and endless security measures suggests a level of paranoia that is ceremonial but sharply present. Alister Jack even made an appearance – dressed up like The Green Arrow – to “guard the Queen” and “stand vigil” alongside Ben Wallace.

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I don’t know who the potential threat is from – who exactly is going to steal the Queen’s body – al Qaeda, dissident republicans, latter-day Burke and Hare body-snatchers? But the idea that the event would be more secure by introducing Alister Jack to the proceedings, wearing tights and a pointy hat, seems improbable.

I don't know how much of this has just been made up and how much is a copy of some ancient tradition of “what to do when the monarch dies”. There seems to be a lot of “guarding” and vigils. The BBC explained to us what was going to happen over the next few days:

“Later on Friday, King Charles and his three siblings, Princess Anne, the Duke of York and Earl of Wessex, will stand in a vigil at the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall. They previously did so as the Queen lay at rest in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh. Prince Andrew will be allowed to wear his own military uniform, despite stepping back from royal duties in 2019.”

The National: King Charles III during a vigil at the coffin of his motherKing Charles III during a vigil at the coffin of his mother (Image: PA)

This weird effort to rehabilitate Andrew will not end well. Not sure what poor Inverness ever did to have him imposed on them as their “Earl” but here he is. If the monarchy and their cult followers don’t want the public anger for his behaviour expressed, they would do well not to parade him around the streets. This is something their beloved departed one knew well.

There seems to be a sense of delayed violence in the air. As the banality becomes all-consuming and the conformity grief becomes completely suffocating the sense that this pantomime must end at time and these people must go home dawns.

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There’s two possibilities here. It’s very possible that the authorities invent some kind of endless celebration, perhaps a Never Ending Queue from Land’s End to John O’ Groats where Brits can “show their respect” and “queue for Britain” in perpetuity. The opportunities for merch are huge and could be a welcome boost for our faltering economy.

The other direction this might go is that when we return to reality, and all the actual critical problems that face us all, that we look back at this shambles and we begin to question people’s complicity in it.

What is really chilling is not the examples of police repression – like this example brought up by human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar:

“Free speech carries caveats, but since the Queen died are we a police state? What right did these officers @PoliceScotland have to follow this woman, find it funny & ask her for address, what crime was committed? Looks like a total abuse of power.”

What is really chilling is that this fealty and subjugation is sought by the people, not imposed on them.

As Stephen Reicher observes: “What we are seeing in Britain right now – and what makes the nature and narratives of the mourning crowds so significant – is not just an expression of nationhood but an exercise in the making of nationhood.

"What makes this exercise so effective is that a loyalist and deferential version of Britishness is not simply imposed on us from the top. It draws on genuine and deep emotions among many millions of people.”

This seems like we are at a point of divergence. Either this – what can only be described as a mass hysteria – will be the forging of a new nation called “Britain” – or it will be seen as an end point – in which such a strange set of institutions will be seen as deeply dysfunctional and anachronistic.

If you want to remain a perpetual subject queueing forever and ever in a public display of queitism we really are Better Together.