Britain and the world to bury Queen Elizabeth II
By MIKE CORDER, JILL LAWLESS and SYLVIA HUI
LONDON (AP) – Britain and the world lays Queen Elizabeth II to rest on Monday in a state funeral which will draw presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers – and up to a million people to the streets of London to bid a final farewell to a monarch whose 70 years of reign set an age.
A day full of funeral events in London and Windsor began early when the doors of 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed past his coffin since September 14. Many of them had spent cold nights outside paying their respects around the Queen’s flag-draped coffin in a moving outpouring of national grief and respect.
The closing of the hall marked the end of more than four days of the coffin in state and the beginning of the first state funeral since the one held in 1965 for Winston Churchill, the first of 15 prime ministers under Elizabeth’s reign. Two days before her death on September 8 at her summer retreat at Balmoral, the Queen appointed her last Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Among the last mourners to join the line to view the coffin was Tracy Dobson from Hertfordshire, just north of London.
“I felt like I had to come and pay my last respects to our majestic queen, she has done so much for us and just a really small thank you from the people,” she said.
Monday has been declared a public holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died on September 8 at age 96. His funeral will be broadcast live to more than 200 countries and territories around the world and screened in front of crowds in parks and public spaces across the UK.
Police officers from across the country will be on duty as part of biggest one day police operation in the history of London.
The day before the funeral, King Charles III sent a message of thanks to people across the UK and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, had been ‘moved beyond measure’ by the large number of people who came to pay their respects to the Queen.
“As we all prepare to say our final goodbyes, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such support and comfort to me and my family during this time of grief. “, did he declare.
For the funeral, Elizabeth’s coffin will be taken from Westminster Hall, across the road from Westminster Abbey, on a royal gun carriage hauled by 142 Royal Navy sailors. The same trolley was used to transport the coffins of the late Kings Edward VII, George V and George VI, and Churchill.
The service, in the gothic medieval abbey where Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned in 1953, will be attended by 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to healthcare workers and volunteers. It will end with two minutes of silence followed by the national anthem and a lament by a bagpiper, before the Queen’s coffin is carried away in a procession surrounded by uniformed armed forces units, with the Queen’s children walking behind, up Wellington Arch near Hyde Park.
There he will be placed in a hearse to be taken to Windsor for another procession along the Long Walk, a three-mile (five-kilometre) avenue leading to the town’s castle, before a burial service in the Chapel of St. -George. She will then be buried with her late husband, Prince Philip, in a private family service.
Central London was already packed before dawn on Monday with people seeking a prime viewing spot, and authorities warned it would be extremely busy.
US President Joe Biden was among the leaders to pay 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 – a spectacular show of national mourning that will also be the largest gathering of world leaders in years.
Biden called Queen Elizabeth II “decent” and “honourable” and “all about service” as he signed the condolence book, saying his heart goes out to the royal family.
People across Britain paused for a minute of silence at 8pm on Sunday in memory of 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.
In Windsor, the rain began to fall as the crowd fell silent for the moment of reflection. Some are setting up small camps and chairs outside Windsor Castle, spending the night there to reserve the best spots to view the Queen’s coffin when she arrives.
“It will be worth it at 4pm this afternoon,” said Sally McCloud, a business manager from nearby Maidenhead. “We’re all here for a reason whether it’s raining or not. So I’m pretty happy to be here and got some sleep. I had a nice cup of coffee this morning and we’re going to wait, wait under the rain.
Fred Sweeney, 52, who outfitted his place with two Union flags on tall flagpoles, said: “It’s just a night and a day in our lives. Elizabeth gave us – you know – 70 years.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose invitation drew criticism from rights groups over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, will not show up at Monday’s funeral. 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.
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