By Lindsay Dunsmuir and Alexandra Hudson
EDINBURGH/HASTINGS, England (Reuters) – In airport lounges, parks, pubs and city squares, people gathered in front of screens across Britain on Monday to watch the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth, seeking out togetherness even far from the events.
It was a public holiday and usually busy streets fell silent as young and old came together in towns, villages and cities outside London for the live broadcast of the service at Westminster Abbey and then the journey of her coffin to Windsor Castle, west of the capital.
“When you can watch it with a big group of people, it feels more communal,” said student Jo Underwood in Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park.
“That was the thing with the queen, she brought everybody together so this is a fitting way to end her reign, with everyone coming together to see her funeral.”
Some kept their heads bowed, others wiped away tears as Britain said goodbye to its longest serving monarch, who died on Sept. 8 aged 96.
Hundreds watched in a park in Hastings, a seaside town on England’s south coast with a centuries-old link to the monarchy.
In 1066 Duke William of Normandy arrived with his army from France to fight King Harold for the English throne, which the Norman also claimed.
William defeated Harold at the Battle of Hastings and was crowned King of England on Christmas Day. The late Queen Elizabeth was the 40th sovereign in a line that traces its lineage back to him.
“I wanted to be there for a moment of history, and to see how I felt about the occasion. I thought I would regret not having watched it in a public setting later,” said Julian Beecroft, a 57-year-old writer.
On a sunny day in Hastings, people sat on camping chairs, many dressed in black, with children and dogs running around.
Account manager Carl Amess, 54, said he found the funeral service “uplifting, moving and respectful”.
“For us, not having been able to get to London to watch the funeral it was good to watch it together here,” he said, adding it was a reminder of Britain’s history.
“We lead such busy lives that we are not often reminded of our heritage, but the funeral did that.”
Hundreds of people watched the funeral inside Manchester Cathedral while in Birmingham, people took shelter from the rain under awnings in the city’s Centenary Square.
Outside Belfast’s City Hall, crowds rose to their feet to sing the national anthem.
At Gatwick Airport south of London, passengers watched events in departure lounges and arrivals areas.
In parts of the country, some pubs opened their doors early to screen the funeral, serving free hot drinks.
STV News reporter Kirstin Tait tweeted a picture from inside the Balmoral Bar in Ballater, a Scottish Highlands village a short drive away from Balmoral Castle, where Elizabeth died.
“Despite being a usually busy pub, aside from the coverage – you could hear a pin drop,” Tait wrote.
People also held private gatherings to watch the proceedings together.
“I feel it was more of a celebration of her life then a mourning of her death,” Emma Parsons-Reid, who invited people to her home in the Welsh capital Cardiff, told Britain’s BBC.
“But when the lone bagpiper played, I was gone. For the first time, it felt real.”
(This story refiles to correct spelling of dateline to HASTINGS).
(Reporting by Lindsey Dunsmuir in Edinburgh, Alexandra Hudson in Hasting and Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London; Additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Frances Kerry)