LONDON – Queen Elizabeth II gave thanks in a nationwide broadcast Monday for the outpouring of public affection following her mother's death, and for the love the country gave the Queen Mother during her life.
"I have drawn great comfort from so many individual acts of kindness and respect," the queen said in a message filmed at Windsor, where the Queen Mother Elizabeth died at age 101 on March 30.
"I have been deeply moved by the outpouring of affection which has accompanied her death," the queen said in an unusually relaxed and personal broadcast.
"My family and I always knew what she meant for the people of this country and the special place she occupied in the hearts of so many," she said. "But the extent of the tribute that huge numbers of you have paid my mother in the last few days has been overwhelming."
Some 200,000 people filed past the coffin at Parliament during the weekend, and the line waiting outside on Monday snaked through the city and along the River Thames. Officials said 2,000 people per hour were passing through after waiting for up to five hours, and the hall has been open day and night for three days.
The Queen Mother, who won the loyalty and support of the nation during World War II, maintained that bond through half a century, appealing to new generations with her humor and dignity.
"I count myself fortunate that my mother was blessed with a long and happy life," the queen said. "She had an infectious zest for living, and this remained with her until the very end. I know, too, that her faith was always a great strength to her.
"I thank you for the support you are giving me and my family as we come to terms with her death and the void she has left in our midst," she said. "I thank you also from my heart for the love you gave her during her life and the honor you now give her in death. May God bless you all."
During the 20 minutes before the message was broadcast, the four grandsons of the Queen Mother Elizabeth kept a somber vigil beside her coffin, replacing the casket's armed guard in a dignified display of mourning and respect.
Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and the late Princess Margaret's son, Viscount Linley, stood at the four corners of the purple-draped coffin inside Parliament's medieval Westminster Hall.
Watched by hundreds of ordinary Britons who had come to pay their respects to the royal matriarch, the four men stood straight and with heads bowed during the 20-minute vigil.
Prince Charles' sons, Princes William and Harry, were among those watching as their father — dressed in the uniform of a navy rear admiral — and the others entered the hall in a slow, dignified line.
Thousands of mourners continued to line up to say farewell to the Queen Mother, while a few devoted fans camped on the streets to get the best spots for Tuesday's funeral.
Princess Anne and her family strolled among well-wishers waiting in line on Monday afternoon.
She was joined by her husband and son, and the Countess of Wessex — wife of Prince Edward — for the walkabout along the south bank of the Thames.
"It was such a nice gesture for them to make. I think it's something that people will really appreciate," said 60-year-old Tom Chamberlain, a market trader from Leicester in central England.
The huge demand from the public to pay their respects to the Queen Mother prompted officials to extend the opening hours of Westminster Hall until dawn on Tuesday.
A few devoted fans were already camped on the streets around Westminster Abbey, where the coffin will be taken in a procession Tuesday morning.
"Something like this just proves that the royals keep this country together," said World War II veteran William Anderson, 83, who waited in line.
"It means everything to me. She was the greatest woman on Earth," he added.
Some labor unions announced they had suspended protests out of respect to the Queen Mother. The Public and Commercial Services union said walkouts planned for Tuesday at navy bases in Scotland to protest planned layoffs would be put back to Friday.
London's Heathrow airport said it would hold two minutes of silence Tuesday as a mark of respect, but air traffic wouldn't be interrupted.
In addition to first lady Laura Bush and the leaders of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, kings and queens, princes and dukes from other royal families around the world will travel to London for the service.