World leaders and foreign royals gather in London for Queen’s funeral

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Liz Truss’s government will host the largest gathering of foreign leaders and dignitaries in London for decades, as they arrive in the capital for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday.

Those set to be in attendance include US president Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, France’s president Emmanuel Macron and India’s president Droupadi Murmu.

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, Australian premier Anthony Albanese, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, president of Germany, will also be in the pews.

The service, which will conclude the 10-day national mourning period, will take place at Westminster Abbey in the heart of the capital and be attended by roughly 2,000 people.

The presence of heads of state, representatives of overseas governments, foreign royal families and governors-general will pose huge organisational and security questions.

One senior cabinet minister said: “Whitehall has been planning the funeral for decades but it’s the most complicated logistical occasion you could imagine.”

As well as VIP dignitaries, attendees will include recipients of British awards for valour such as the Victoria Cross and George Cross, alongside senior MPs and peers, bishops and representatives of charities supported by the late monarch.

Almost 200 people who were recognised in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours have also been invited, including community volunteers and those who made extraordinary contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic, along with other emergency services workers.

Although no formal bilaterals will be held because of the national mourning period, Truss is expected to host several meetings.

Emperor Naruhito of Japan, right, (R) pays his respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state inside Westminster Hall
Emperor Naruhito of Japan, right, pays his respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state inside Westminster Hall © John Sibley/AFP via Getty Images

Truss had been expected to meet Biden on Sunday, but the pair will have their first formal bilateral at the UN General Assembly in New York City later this week.

The UK prime minister on Saturday met Albanese and Ardern at Chequers, her country residence in Buckinghamshire. On Sunday, she was due to meet Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Canada’s premier Justin Trudeau in Downing Street.

Royal figures in attendance will also include Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium and King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway.

Foreign dignitaries will assemble before the event at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea before travelling in shared vehicles to the abbey.

Only a handful of world leaders — including those from Russia, Belarus and Myanmar — were not invited, reflecting the war in Ukraine and a lack of full diplomatic relations with the UK.

No representatives from Syria, Venezuela or Afghanistan were asked to attend, while North Korea and Nicaragua have been invited only at ambassadorial level.

A police search team enters Westminster Abbey ahead of Monday’s funeral of Queen Elizabeth II
A police search team enters Westminster Abbey ahead of Monday’s funeral of Queen Elizabeth II © Phil Noble/Reuters

Conservative MPs and peers expressed concerns that an invitation had been extended to Xi Jinping, president of China, although it is likely that vice-president Wang Qishan will represent the country.

Beijing last year imposed sanctions on nine individuals, including five Tory MPs and four organisations in Britain — in retaliation for the UK’s decision to sanction some Chinese officials.

Former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith, one of the five sanctioned MPs, said it was “astonishing” that China had been invited given its “huge record of human rights abuses”.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be represented by the country’s foreign minister, while Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission is due to attend.

Owing to the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not expected but first lady Olena Zelenska is set to attend.

Catherine, Princess of Wales, meets Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at Buckingham Palace
Catherine, Princess of Wales, meets Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, at Buckingham Palace © Kirsty O’Connor/WPA/Getty Images

The state funeral service, which will start at 11am and last around an hour, will be conducted by the dean of Westminster, Dr David Hoyle.

At the start of the service, the choir of Westminster Abbey, joined by the choir of the Chapel Royal of St James’s Palace, will sing five Sentences — lines of scripture put to music.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will give a sermon, and Truss and Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general, will read lessons from Corinthians and St John’s Gospel. The lessons will be followed in turn by a specially commissioned setting of the psalm “Like as the hart” and the hymn “The Lord is my shepherd”. 

Other hymns to be played will include “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ending” and “Love divine, all loves excelling”.

After the service the Queen’s coffin will be escorted to Wellington Arch, at Hyde Park Corner, en route to Windsor Castle, where a committal service will take place at 4pm. That will be led by the dean of Windsor, David Conner. The rector of Sandringham, the minister of Crathie Kirk near Balmoral, and the chaplain of the Royal Chapel at Windsor — representing some of the Queen’s favourite residences — will say prayers.

A private funeral will take place later on Monday evening at the King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor Castle and the late monarch will be buried alongside her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

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