Thousands of police, hundreds of soldiers and an army of civil servants finalized preparations on Sunday for Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral, a spectacular show of national mourning that would also be the biggest gathering of world leaders in years.
US President Joe Biden and other dignitaries arrived in London for the funeral, to which some 500 members of royal families, heads of state and government from around the world have been invited.
Biden and First Lady Jill Biden paid their respects to the late Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday.RELATED
Biden went to the Westminster Hall in London, where the remains of the monarch are. She crossed herself and placed her hand over her heart, standing in front of the coffin. The Bidens were accompanied by US Ambassador Jane Hartley.
Biden signed the book of condolences, writing that the monarch was a “decent”, “honorable” person and “dedicated to serving”.
First Lady Jill Biden wrote in the condolence book: “Queen Elizabeth II lived her life for the people. She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget the warmth of her, the kindness of her, and the conversations we shared.”
The Bidens then went to a reception for King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. They are scheduled to attend the state funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday.
Other leaders in attendance included Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Irish President Michael D. Higgins and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Thousands of people continued to queue at all hours to pass the queen’s coffin in Parliament’s Westminster Hall despite frigid night temperatures and waits of up to 17 hours. The queen’s eight grandchildren, led by heir to the throne Prince William, stood around the coffin with bowed heads during a silent vigil on Saturday night.
The line, which stretched for miles, was expected to be closed to new arrivals later on Sunday so that all those waiting could pass the casket before Monday morning, when it would be taken by gun cart to the Westminster Abbey for the queen’s funeral.
Among the world leaders who arrived in London was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told the BBC she was honored to represent her nation at the funeral and watch the national mourning for the queen.
“What I will remember the most from these days is the beauty of the collective response, the kindness of the people, their patience, their camaraderie. That for me has been the best tribute of all, the response of the British people, ”said the Prime Minister.
Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, also came to Westminster Hall to pay her respects to the queen. Zelenska also met Catherine, Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace, palace officials said.
People across Britain were expected to observe a minute’s silence on Sunday night in memory of the queen, who died on September 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. Monday was declared a national holiday and her funeral was to be broadcast live to a huge television audience, as well as on screens in parks and public spaces across the country.
Thousands of police officers from across the country would work in the largest one-day police operation in London history.
Camila, the new queen consort, paid tribute to Elizabeth II in a video message, saying the queen “carved out her own role” as a “lonely woman” in a male-dominated global landscape.
“I will always remember his smile. That smile is unforgettable,” said Camila, wife of King Carlos III.
Prince Andrew also paid tribute to his mother, stating that he will forever treasure “your love for your son, your compassion, your care, your trust.”
“I will miss your opinions, your advice, your sense of humor,” the prince added in a statement addressed to “Mommy, Mother, Your Majesty.”
Andrew, the third of the queen’s four sons, has been stripped of his official duties and stripped of his military titles due to his friendship with the now-dead convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
A flood of people continued to pour into Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where the royal standard and a diamond crown had been placed on the coffin. The number of mourners has grown steadily since access to the public opened on Wednesday, with a queue stretching at least five miles along the River Thames and into Southwark Park in the city’s southeast.
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