LONDON– Britain and the world bury Queen Elizabeth II on Monday at a state funeral that will draw presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers – and up to a million people who will line the streets of London for a final farewell to a monarch whose 70-year reign defines an old age.
A day of funeral services in London and Windsor started early as the doors of the 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had stood before her coffin since September 14. Many of them had spent cold nights outdoors paying their respects to the Queen’s flag-draped coffin in a moving outpouring of national mourning and respect. A bell later began ringing at Westminster Abbey, which will chime once a minute for 96 minutes to honor each year of Elizabeth’s life.
The closure of the hall marked the end of more than four days that the coffin lay in state and the start of Britain’s first state funeral since 1965 for Winston Churchill, the first of 15 Prime Ministers during Elizabeth’s reign. Two days before her death on September 8 at her summer residence in Balmoral, the Queen appointed her last Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Among the last of the mourners to join the queue to see the coffin was Tracy Dobson, from Hertfordshire, north of London.
“I felt I had to come and pay my last respects to our majestic Queen, she has done so much for us and just a little thank you from the people,” she said.
Monday was declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died on September 8 at the age of 96. Her funeral will be broadcast live to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide and shown to crowds in parks and public spaces across the UK
Police officers from across the country will be on duty as part of the largest one-day police operation in London history.
On the evening before the funeral, King Charles III. a message of thanks to people in Britain and around the world, in which he said he and his wife Camilla, the Queen consort, were “moved beyond measure” by the large number of people turned out to offer the Queen her to pay homage.
“As we all prepare to say our final goodbyes, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the countless people who have been such support and comfort to my family and I during this time of grief,” he said he.
For the burial, Elizabeth’s coffin is carried from Westminster Hall across the street to Westminster Abbey on a royal carriage drawn by 142 Royal Navy seamen. The same carriage was used to transport the coffins of the late Kings Edward VII, George V and George VI, and Churchill.
The service, held in the Gothic medieval abbey where Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned in 1953, will be attended by 2,000 people, from world leaders to health workers and volunteers.
Mourners arrived just after 8 a.m. (0700 GMT; 3 a.m. EDT) to take their seats. Later, dignitaries arrived, and many heads of state gathered at a nearby hospital to be bussed to the abbey. Hours before the service began, London authorities said all spectator areas along the route of the funeral procession were full.
The funeral will end with two minutes’ silence, followed by the national anthem and a whistling wail, before the Queen’s coffin will be taken in procession, surrounded by units of the Armed Forces in dress uniforms, with the Queen’s children behind, to Wellington Arch near Hyde Park .
There it is placed in a hearse to be driven to Windsor for another procession along the Long Walk, a three-mile avenue leading to the town’s castle, before a funeral service at St George’s Chapel. She will then be buried at a private family service with her late husband Prince Philip.
Central London was already packed before dawn with people seeking a prime vantage point and authorities warned it would be very busy.
US President Joe Biden was among leaders who paid their respects at the Queen’s coffin on Sunday, as thousands of police, hundreds of British troops and an army of civil servants made final preparations for the funeral in a spectacular display of national mourning, which is also the deepest will be gathering of world leaders for years.
Biden called Queen Elizabeth II “decent” and “honorable” and “everything about the service” when he signed the book of condolences, and said his heart is with the royal family.
People across the UK observed a minute’s silence at 8pm on Sunday to commemorate the only monarch most have ever known. At Westminster Hall, the steady stream of mourners paused for 60 seconds as people watched the minute of reflection in deep silence.
It began to rain in Windsor as the crowd fell silent for a moment of contemplation. Some set up small camps and chairs outside Windsor Castle and spend the night there to reserve the best seats to see the Queen’s coffin when it arrives.
“By 4 p.m. this afternoon it will all be worth it,” said Sally McCloud, a business manager from nearby Maidenhead. “We are all here for a reason, whether it rains or not. So I’m very glad to be here and get some sleep. I had a nice cup of coffee this morning and we’ll just wait, wait in the rain.”
Fred Sweeney, 52, who lined his seat with two Union flags on tall flagpoles, said: “It’s just one night and one day of our lives. Elizabeth gave us – you know – 70 years.”
A no-show at Monday’s funeral will be Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose invitation was criticized by human rights groups for the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia is expected to be represented by another royal, Prince Turki bin Mohammed.
Danica Kirka, Samya Kullab, and David Keyton contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
https://abc7.com/queen-elizabeth-ii-coffin-death-king-charles/12239767/ Queen Elizabeth II Latest: Britain and the World Lay the Queen to Rest