Thousands of police, hundreds of soldiers and an army of officials made final preparations on Sunday for the State funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – a spectacular display of national mourning that will also be the largest gathering of world leaders in years.
President Biden and other dignitaries have started arriving in London for the funeral, to which around 500 royals, heads of state and heads of government from around the world have been invited.
Thousands of people continued to line up around the clock to file past the Queen’s coffin as it lies undisturbed in Parliament’s Westminster Hall, braving the chilly night temperatures and the wait of up to 17 hours. The Queen’s eight grandchildren, led by heir to the throne Prince William, surrounded the coffin and stood with their heads bowed during a silent vigil on Saturday evening.
Mr Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden paid their respects in Westminster Hall on Sunday and were joined by Jane Hartley, US Ambassador to the UK. The President was then expected to sign the Queen’s official condolence register at Lancaster House.
The mile-long queue at Westminster Hall is expected to be closed to new arrivals later on Sunday so everyone in line can pass the coffin before Monday morning, when it will be transported on a cannon cart to at Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral.
People across the UK are due to pause on Sunday evening for a national minute of silence in remembrance of the Queen, who died on September 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. Monday has been declared a holiday and the funeral will be televised to large audiences and screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the country.
Thousands of police from across the country will be on duty in the biggest one-day police operation in London’s history.
Crowds also gathered near Windsor Castle on Sunday, where the Queen will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony on Monday evening.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Anna Pettigrew, a 55-year-old teacher. “It was very moving, and I think it’s a very fitting tribute to a wonderful queen.”
Camilla, the new Queen consort, paid tribute to the Queen in a video message, saying the monarch “carved out her own role” as a “lonely woman” on a male-dominated world stage.
“I will always remember his smile. This smile is unforgettable,” said Camilla, married to King Charles III.
A tide of people continued to stream into Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s coffin lies in state, draped in the Royal Standard and topped with a diamond-set crown. The number of mourners has risen steadily since the public were first admitted on Wednesday, with a queue stretching at least five miles along the River Thames and into Southwark Park , in the southeast of the city.
Honoring their patience, Charles and William paid an unannounced visit on Saturday to greet those in the queue, shake hands and thank the mourners in the queue near Lambeth Bridge.
Later, all of the Queen’s grandchildren stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, sons of Charles, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; the daughters of Prince Andrew, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Prince Edward’s two children – Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
William stood with his head bowed at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. The two princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. Mourners continued to march in silence.
“You could see they thought a lot about their grandmother, the Queen,” said Ian Mockett, a civil engineer from Oxford, in southern England. “It was nice to see them all together as a set of grandchildren given the things that have happened over the past few years.”
Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British Army officer, wore civilian clothes earlier in the week as the Queen’s coffin left Buckingham Palace because he is no longer an active member of the Royal family. He and his wife Meghan left their royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. The king, however, asked William and Harry to wear their military uniforms during the Westminster Hall vigil.
Ahead of the wake, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie released a statement praising their “beloved grandma”.
“We, like many, thought you would be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our back leading us through this world. You have taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.
The Queen’s four children – Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – held a similar vigil around the coffin on Friday.
The silence in the hall was briefly broken on Friday when a man threw himself on the coffin. London police said on Sunday a 28-year-old man, Muhammad Khan, was charged with behavior intended to “cause alarm, harassment or distress”. He will appear in court on Monday.
The lie-in-state continues until Monday morning, when the Queen’s coffin will be moved to nearby Westminster Abbey for the funeral, the final 10 days of national mourning for the longest-reigning monarch in Great Britain. -Brittany.
After Monday’s service at the Abbey, the late Queen’s coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London on a cannon carriage. She will then be taken by hearse to Windsor, where the Queen will be buried alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
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