The 2,000 strong congregation will include world leaders, royalty, representatives from charity and those who made ‘extraordinary contributions’ in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Britain is preparing to bid a final farewell to Queen Elizabeth in a grand state funeral, after King Charles III said he had been “moved beyond measure” by the outpouring of public sympathy following her death.
Dozens of world leaders and royalty from Europe to Lesotho and Japan will be among the 2,000 people attending Monday’s funeral at Westminster Abbey in central London.
United States President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan 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.
Biden described her as “decent, honourable, and all about service”.
“You were fortunate to have had her for 70 years. We all were,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people had queued for hours to file past the oak coffin, draped in the royal standard and with the Imperial Crown, orb and sceptre, lying on top, 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. The public viewing will end at 6.30am (05:30 GMT).
King Charles said that he and his wife Queen Consort Camilla had been “so deeply touched” by messages of condolence and support from Britain and around the world.
The country held a minute’s silence on Sunday in honour of Queen Elizabeth.
“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 11am (10:00 GMT), when the queen’s coffin will be placed on a gun carriage and pulled by 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 route of the procession. The funeral will be screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the UK, as well as 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 almost 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 home 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 final prime minister.