London (AFP) – US President Joe Biden paid his last respects in London to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, as it was time for ordinary mourners to view her coffin before the funeral.
Biden crossed himself and put his hand over his heart as he stood with his wife, Jill, in a gallery overlooking the flag-covered casket in the cavernous Westminster Hall as members of the audience advanced.
After witnessing the bleak spectacle, US leader, Emperor Naruhito of Japan, French President Emmanuel Macron and other heads of state from around the world headed for a reception with King Charles.
Biden, who flew in late Saturday, said Charles’s mother, who broke the record at 70 until her death on September 8 at the age of 96, “defined an era.”
Mourners have until 6:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) on Monday to see Queen Elizabeth’s coffin ahead of the lavish state funeral.
Anti-monarchist Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who witnessed the lie in the state and met Charles on Saturday, told Sky News Australia that the Queen was “a reassuring presence always”.
There was also a special audience at Buckingham Palace for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, who like Australia and 12 other Commonwealth kingdoms now count Charles as their own.
“You can see it was a huge amount (for Charles) to see the sheer scale and outpouring of people’s love and affection for Her late Majesty,” she told BBC Television on Sunday.
Britain’s King Charles III met members of the public waiting in the waiting list
But in a sign of the challenges facing the new king, Ardern added that she expects New Zealand to relinquish the British monarchy “for the course of my life”.
Members of the audience have been camping out in advance for a peek at Big Monday’s farewell at Westminster Abbey, which is expected to bring London to a standstill and is watched by billions of viewers around the world.
– Country ‘glue’ –
Which. Kelly, a 46-year-old teacher from Northern Ireland, secured a prime spot with friends on the route the procession will take after the funeral.
Members of the crowd were already camping along the path the procession would take after the funeral
“Watching her on TV is great, but being here is something else,” she told AFP, equipped with camping chairs, warm clothes and extra socks.
“I would probably feel very emotional when it came to that, but I wanted to be here to pay my respects.”
Crowds also thronged around Windsor Castle, west London, where the Queen’s coffin will be carried after her burial prayers to rest alongside her late husband Prince Philip, her parents and sister.
“I’ve lived here my whole life and have never seen it so busy before,” said Donna Lombard, 32, a manager at a local restaurant.
Starting with the tally of one Big Ben, British Prime Minister Liz Truss will stand a national minute of silence at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Sunday to reflect on the Queen’s “life and legacy.”
The audience was told they were running out of time to join the queue to see the Queen’s coffin lying in its state
Near the Scottish town of Falkirk, 96 lanterns were to be lowered into a “reflection pond” at the foot of the Queen Elizabeth II Canal, before wreaths were placed in the water.
Those who wish to view the flag-covered casket have until 6:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) on
Monday to arrive at Westminster Hall across from the Abbey.
As the queue continued to wind for miles (kilometres) along the Thames on Sunday, the wait time was more than nine hours, and the line is likely to be closed by evening.
Mourners queued all night, with some blankets handed out by volunteers against the cold of London.
“To avoid disappointment, please do not set out to join the waiting list,” the government said.
Andy Sanderson, 46, a supermarket district manager, was in line and finally made it to Parliament.
“She was the glue that kept the country together,” he said.
“She doesn’t have an agenda while politicians have an agenda, so she can speak for the people.”
– Grandchildren’s vigil –
As mourners progressed slowly on Saturday evening, Prince William and his estranged younger brother Prince Harry led the Queen’s eight grandchildren in a 12-minute vigil around the coffin.
Harry, who had two tours with the British Army in Afghanistan, wore the Blues and Royal Cavalry uniforms he served in.
The move appeared to be the latest olive branch offered by Charles to Harry and his wife Meghan after they resigned from their royal duties and moved to North America, later accusing the royal family of racism.
Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren (from left to right) Zara Tindall; Lady Louise Windsor, Princess Beatrice, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. William, Prince of Wales; James, Viscount Severn; And Princess Eugenie
The state funeral for Queen Elizabeth, the first in Britain since the death of her first Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, will be held on Monday in Westminster Abbey at 11:00 am.
Reflecting the Queen’s wishes at the hour-long celebration, former Archbishop of York John Sentamu said she “did not want what she calls long and tedious services”.
“It will warm hearts and people,” he told BBC television.
– Greetings from Camilla, Andrew –
The funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey before a commissioning and private burial service at Windsor Castle
Leaders from Russia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and North Korea were not invited to join the 2,000 guests.
The Russian Foreign Ministry last week called the decision “extremely immoral” and “blasphemous” in the Queen’s memory. China will attend at the monastery, but parliamentary leaders are forbidden to lie in the state.
As their own grief plays out in the glow of global interest, a new YouGov poll shows that the royal family’s popularity has soared in the UK.
William and his wife Kate have topped the rankings of the most famous members of the royal family, while Charles has seen his approval ratings rise 16 points since May.
The Queen’s second son Prince Andrew, in disgrace over his links to US pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, praised on Sunday “infinite knowledge and wisdom, without limits or containment”.
Camilla made her first public comments as the Queen’s new wife, recalling her mother-in-law’s smile and her “dazzling blue eyes”.
“It must have been very difficult for her to be a solitary woman” in a world dominated by men, Charles’ wife said in televised comments.
There were no women prime ministers or presidents. She was the only one so I think she carved her role.”