The televised proceedings of the Queen’s state funeral are expected to set smash all prior records and become the most watched live broadcast of all time.
More than half the world’s population are expected to tune in next week to watch the final chapter of the Second Elizabethan Age draw to a poignant close as the Queen is laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.
Live coverage of the historic event will air on BBC One, BBC News and iPlayer throughout the day, while ITV will air the event live on its main channel.
Officials expect Westminster Hall will see almost half a million visitors coming to view the Queen’s coffin in person, ahead of the state funeral on Monday.
Those who are unable to visit the capital will instead switch on their televisions as they turn to 24hour streaming of the momentous event.
Industry experts have suggested a staggering 4.1 billion viewers could watch the funeral – smashing the previous record of 3.5billion who reportedly watched boxing great Muhammad Ali open the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
If their predictions are correct, the Queen’s state funeral would eclipse all other broadcasting records – including the Live8 concerts in 2005, Sydney’s New Year Eve firework celebrations in 2010 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Carolina Beltramo, TV analyst at WatchTVAbroad.com, said: ‘Such is the love and admiration for Queen Elizabeth II around the world that her funeral is destined to be the biggest live TV event in history.
‘Generations of people across the globe won’t have been alive the last time pomp and pageantry were seen on this scale.
‘While it’s a sad occasion, they can be forgiven for being enthralled by a spectacle that echoes throughout history. For that reason alone they’ll be drawn to witness the dawn of this new age in their billions.
‘No fewer than 4.1billion people are expected to tune in on Monday to witness this historic moment as half the people on planet Earth pause to pay their respects.
‘Thanks to advances in technology, which mean most of us now carry TVs around in our pockets, audience figures will eclipse the opening ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics, when 3.6 billion people watched Muhammad Ali light the Olympic torch in 1996.
‘In contrast, an estimated 2.5billion people watched the service for Diana, Princess of Wales, 25 years ago, with 31million Brits tuning in.’
Solemn members of the Royal Family gathered today to prepare to accompany the Queen for her poignant final journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where she will lie in state for the next five nights.
At 2.22pm Her Majesty was carried down The Mall on a gun carriage – a tradition dating back to the death of her great-grandmother Queen Victoria in 1901 – as her children, grandchildren and other senior royals marched behind in time to a funeral march.
William and Harry again set aside their feud and stood next to each other as they accompanied their beloved grandmother on to Parliament. Their wives travelled separately in cars behind.
The procession poignantly passed the statue of the Queen’s parents King George VI and the Queen Mother which overlooks The Mall. The Imperial State Crown, worn by the Queen on the way back to Buckingham Palace after her Coronation, glittered in the daylight as the crowds held aloft their phones to capture the scenes.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the route but there was a silent reverence as the coffin appeared.
There were some muted cheers and clapping and cries of God Save the Queen as well as many tears shed as the late monarch left her London home for the final time. All viewing areas on The Mall, Whitehall and Parliament Square were full by 1pm – with people being turned away.
The Queen’s coffin was draped with the Royal Standard and adorned with the glittering, priceless Imperial State Crown on a purple velvet cushion and a wreath of white flowers for the procession to the lying in state.
The flowers were white roses, spray white roses, white dahlias and foliage, including pine from the gardens at Balmoral and pittosporum, lavender and rosemary from the gardens at Windsor.
The procession left the palace at 2.22pm and is expected to arrive at Westminster Hall at 3pm. A service lasting around 20 minutes will be led by the Archbishop of Canterbury accompanied by the Dean of Westminster.
Princess Anne, who has remained with her mother since she died last Thursday, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward also followed the coffin on the 1.2mile journey to Westminster Hall – the ancient heart of the Houses of Parliament where up to 1million Britons hope to see the Queen lying in state there as her father and mother did in 1952 and 2002.
Her Majesty spent her final night in the Bow Room of Buckingham Palace last night before being conveyed on a gun carriage to Westminster Hall – where she will lie in state until 6.30am next Monday, the day of her funeral.
More than one million people are expected to queue in Central London for up to 35 hours to walk past her coffin – but experts believe only 400,000 will make it inside meaning 600,000 people will be left disappointed.
Mourners have also been joining the queue to attend the lying in state, opening at 5pm tonight. Government guidance says the queue is expected to be very long, with people standing for ‘many hours, possibly overnight’.
The queuing infrastructure for the Queen’s lying in state is 10 miles in length, it is understood. This includes 6.9 miles from Victoria Tower Gardens to Southwark Park, with a further three miles inside Southwark Park.
The Queen arrived at the palace last night to tears and cheers from the crowds who stood in the rain to welcome her home after her death at Balmoral last Thursday. The route from RAF Northolt to the palace was packed.
There was a wave of lights as many raised their mobile phones in the air to film the hearse as it passed. As the hearse drove through the gates, Charles could be seen bowing his head with Harry and Meghan stood behind.