LONDON — Even in death, Queen Elizabeth II has summoning power.
World leaders including US President Joe Biden and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron descended on the British capital to pay their respects to the late monarch on Sunday as the country prepared to say goodbye to its head of state with great fanfare. for seven decades.
The leaders landed over the weekend ahead of Monday’s royal funeral, which takes place at Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. local time, ahead of a committal service later in the afternoon.
Using a fast-track VIP lane, some of those gathered joined the public at Westminster Hall to pay their respects to the Queen, whose coffin rests in the Old Palace of Westminster until Monday morning.
Biden was applauded as he and his wife Jill arrived at Parliament in a presidential car. He appeared on the balcony overlooking Queen Elizabeth’s coffin, with his wife, Jill, late Sunday afternoon.
The US president signed the late monarch’s official book of condolences at Lancaster House and paid tribute to someone whose loss he said ‘leaves a giant hole’ and who reminded him of his own mother.
He added: “Sometimes you think you’ll never get over it, but like I said to the king, she’s going to be with him every step of the way, every minute, every moment and that’s a notion. reassuring. So to all the people of England, to all the people of the United Kingdom, our hearts go out to you. And you were blessed to have had it for 70 years, we all were. world is better for her.
Meanwhile, Macron was spotted leaving the Houses of Parliament on foot with his wife, and the French president told reporters he was in London to “share the pain of the British”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, were among those who made their way to Westminster Hall to see the Queen reclining in condition.
On Sunday evening, leaders and dignitaries, including Biden and the first lady, will attend a reception hosted by the new King Charles III.
While most world leaders paid low-key visits, Armenia’s President Vahagn Khachaturian came under fire after he was caught having his photo taken at the foot of the late monarch’s coffin in violation of the strict rule of no – telephone in force in the infirmary. , the Sun newspaper reported on Sunday.
The funeral of the only monarch most Britons have known is expected to paralyze central London and involves the biggest security operation the capital has ever seen.
Liz Truss, who has been British Prime Minister for less than a fortnight, met the King at Buckingham Palace and is expected to mark a national ‘moment of reflection’ for the Queen outside 10 Downing Street.
In the buses
Despite all the warm words from visiting dignitaries, there will be notable absences from Westminster Abbey on Monday.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, is no longer expected to attend the funeral at Westminster Abbey, Foreign Office sources told Reuters on Sunday. Riyadh is expected to be represented by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud instead. Bin Salman’s invitation had been controversial following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Russian Vladimir Putin was not invited.
British organizers also had a diplomatic row over the logistics of bringing a crowd of world leaders to an event in the heart of the British capital.
Britain’s Foreign Office has faced backlash after advice to overseas embassies, obtained by POLITICO, said leaders ‘will be required’ to leave their personal vehicles at a site in west London and arriving instead at the funeral in shared coaches, citing safety and the road. limitations.
Last week it was reported that some Middle Eastern and North African royalty are unlikely to travel to London as a result of the edict. A Kuwaiti official told the Guardian: “If the king came to our neighborhood, we wouldn’t put him on a bus. Expecting loyal friends of King Charles all gathering like school children on a bus to the funeral is not the start we expected. That’s why some of us stay away.
Downing Street later said US President Biden would not have to take the bus to Westminster Abbey – a move that has drawn anger from some countries demanding the same treatment.
Yet other world leaders were more relaxed. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday the proposal “just makes good sense”.
“I don’t think the bus justifies too much noise,” she told the BBC.