Leaders and monarchs from across the globe gathered in London on Monday to bid farewell to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at a state funeral of inimitable pageantry.
The pageantry marked the passing of a beloved figure that unified the nation through her 70-year reign.
Thousands of people lined the streets to witness the passage of the queen’s casket from the historic Westminster Hall to nearby Westminster Abbey, and eventually on to Windsor Castle where she will be laid to rest alongside her late husband.
U.S. President Joe Biden paid tribute to the 96-year-old, Britain’s longest-serving monarch who earned almost universal respect for her service to her country as its role in the world diminished and changed.
Among the crowds who came from around Britain and beyond, people were climbing lampposts and standing on barriers and ladders to catch a glimpse of the royal procession.
Millions more will watch on television at home on a public holiday declared for the occasion as the funeral of a British monarch has never been televised before.
Along the Mall, one of London’s grand ceremonial boulevards, the crowd stood 15-20 people deep in places.
Some wore smart black suits and dresses. Others were dressed in hoodies, leggings and tracksuits. A woman with dyed green hair stood next to a man in morning suit as they waited for the procession to begin.
Alistair Campbell Binnings, 64, said he left his home in Norfolk at midnight to make his way to London.
“This is a one-off. We would only be here for the queen. We just felt we had to be here. She was what we always needed in a time of crisis,” he said.
Shortly before 11 a.m. (1000 GMT), the oak coffin, covered in the Royal Standard flag with the Imperial State Crown on top, will be placed on a gun carriage and pulled by naval personnel to Westminster Abbey for her funeral.
Among the 2,000 in the congregation will be some 500 world leaders, from Biden and Emperor Naruhito of Japan to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mark Brown, prime minister of Cook Islands.
The queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, the two eldest children of now heir-to-the-throne Prince William, will also be attending.
Charles, Elizabeth’s son and the new king, in a statement said “as we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and myself in this time of grief.’’
Elizabeth died on Sept. 8 at her Scottish summer home, Balmoral Castle.
Her health had been in decline, and for months the monarch who had carried out hundreds of official engagements well into her 90s had withdrawn from public life.
However, in line with her sense of duty she was photographed just two days before she died, looking frail and holding a walking stick as she appointed Liz Truss as her 15th and final prime minister. (Reuters)