By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Britain is preparing to bid a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth II in a grand state funeral, with dozens of world leaders and royalty from Europe to Lesotho and Japan to be among the 2,000 people attending the funeral at Westminster Abbey in central London.
The public viewing of the queen’s coffin, draped in the royal standard with the imperial crown, orb and sceptre on it, will end at 6:30 am (05:30 GMT) on Monday, followed by the funeral.
Hundreds of thousands of people had queued for hours to file past the oak coffin during the four days it lay in state. The estimated waiting time peaked at more than 25 hours early on Saturday and was eventually closed to newcomers on Sunday.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Emperor Naruhito, and United States President Joe Biden joined those paying respects to Britain’s longest-serving monarch during the last day of the official lying-in-state at the 900-year-old Westminster Hall.
“You were fortunate to have had her for 70 years. We all were,” President Biden said, describing the queen as “decent, honourable, and all about service”.
Britain held a moment of silence on Sunday evening in honour of Queen Elizabeth.
King Charles III said he and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, had been “so deeply touched” by messages of condolence and support from Britain and around the world following the death of his mother.
“We were moved beyond measure by everyone who took the trouble to come and pay their respects to the lifelong service of my dear mother, The late Queen,” he said in a statement.
The state funeral will begin shortly before 11 am (10:00 GMT) when the queen’s coffin will be placed on a gun carriage and pulled by 142 Royal Navy sailors to the abbey, the finale of 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
The procession will be led by some 200 pipers and drummers. King Charles, his siblings and sons Princes William and Harry and other members of the royal family will walk behind the coffin.
Monday has been declared a public holiday and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to line the procession’s route. The funeral will be screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the UK, as well as in 200 countries across the world.
The tenor bell of the Abbey the site of coronations, weddings and burials of English and then British kings and queens for nearly 1,000 years will toll 96 times to mark each year of her life.
“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and from the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service,” David Hoyle, the dean of Westminster will say.
The congregation at the funeral, the first to be televised, will also include those awarded Britain’s highest military and civilian medals for gallantry, representatives from charities supported by the queen, and those who made “extraordinary contributions” to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Afterwards, the coffin will be taken through central London, past Buckingham Palace to the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, with the monarch and the royal family following again on foot during the 2.4km (1.5-mile) procession.
From there, it will be placed on a hearse to be driven west to Windsor Castle where the queen will be buried in the royal vault as the sovereign’s piper plays a lament, slowly walking away until music in the chapel gradually fades.
Elizabeth died on September 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland after 70 years on the throne.
Her health had been in decline, and she had largely withdrawn from official engagements, although just two days before her death she had appointed Liz Truss her 15th and finally prime minister.
The Queen’s funeral on Monday will be one of the biggest gatherings of royalty and politicians hosted in the UK for decades.
Invitations have gone out to an anticipated 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries.
And of course, there will be family, friends and courtiers in the congregation too.
The guest list has not been confirmed but here’s what we know so far about who is expected to attend, who is likely to be on the list – and who is not definitely not coming.
The Royal Family
King Charles, accompanied by Camilla, the Queen Consort. Also in attendance will be the Queen’s other three children, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, as well as their spouses including Sarah Ferguson, Andrew’s ex-wife.
The Queen’s grandchildren including Princes William and Harry, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Zara Tindall, Peter Phillips, Lady Louise Windsor and James, and Viscount Severn are expected too, along with their husbands and wives. It is not yet clear how many of the Queen’s 12 great-grandchildren will be there, though it has been confirmed that Prince George and Princess Charlotte will attend.
Among the others expected are Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, the late Queen’s godson and William and Harry’s uncle; Prince and Princess Michael of Kent; and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
Friends and employees of the Queen
High up any list of invitations will surely be the ladies-in-waiting who for decades were by the Queen’s side.
These include Lady Susan Hussey, who began working for the Queen in 1960 and is Prince William’s godmother. She accompanied the Queen to the funeral of Prince Philip in 2021. Another is Dame Mary Morrison, who returned to the Queen’s side as soon as she could after breaking an ankle in 2018 at the age of 81.
There is also Angela Kelly, the Liverpool-born daughter of a docker who served as the late Queen’s personal assistant and senior dresser for 30 years and was said to be a close confidante.
Another adviser and friend is John Warren, who was the Queen’s racing manager. Cameras caught them celebrating together in the Royal box at Ascot when her horse Estimate won the Gold Cup in 2013.
Sir Jackie Stewart, the former Formula One world champion, had been due to visit the Queen at Balmoral prior to her death and is expected to attend the funeral. So too is Sir David Attenborough he and the Queen were born just weeks apart and they had worked together on several occasions.
European royal families
Members of royal families from across Europe, many of whom were blood relatives of the Queen, are expected.
Belgium’s King Philippe and Queen Mathilde have confirmed they will be there, as have King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and his wife, Queen Maxima, along with his mother, former Dutch queen Princess Beatrix.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain have also accepted an invitation, as have the royal families of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Monaco.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan will attend, as well as the King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk. Other expected guests include Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah; Jordan’s King Abdullah; Crown Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah; King of Lesotho, Letsie III; and Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein.
Royal leaders from Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Tonga are expected.
Leaders from across the Commonwealth, of which the Queen served as head for the entirety of her reign, will also attend.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has arrived in the UK, as have New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Long-serving Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian President Droupadi Murmu have also reached London and will attend the funeral. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has reportedly accepted an invitation.
Other world leaders
President Joe Biden, who arrived in London late Saturday, will attend along with First Lady Jill Biden although, unlike other dignitaries, they are understood not to be travelling to the service by bus.
Other world leaders to have accepted invitations include Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin and President Michael Higgins, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Chinese President Xi Jinping received an invitation a decision that was criticised by some MPs and peers, on account of the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur minority. According to parliamentary sources, Chinese officials were banned from attending the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall. On Saturday, the Chinese government confirmed Vice President Wang Qishan would attend the funeral.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince – and de facto ruler – Mohammed Bin Salman was invited, but he is not expected to attend the funeral, Reuters reported on Sunday. It would have been his first visit since the murder of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Prince Mohammed was accused of ordering the killing, and Hatice Cengiz – who was engaged to Mr Khashoggi – said the prince “should not be allowed to stain [the Queen’s] memory and use this time mourning to seek legitimacy and normalisation”.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, long the subject of international sanctions over its nuclear programme, will be represented only at the ambassadorial level, Whitehall sources said.
Representatives from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan have not been invited. This is because the UK does not have full diplomatic relations with these countries.
No one from Russia, Belarus and Myanmar has been invited either.
Diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia have all but collapsed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was “not considering” attending the funeral.
The invasion was launched partially from the territory of Belarus. And the UK has significantly scaled back its diplomatic presence in Myanmar since a military coup last year.
North Korea (DPRK) and Nicaragua have been invited to send only ambassadors, not heads of state.