The People’s Parade is nearing its end, official delegations are pouring in: only a few hours remain before the public can hope to gather at Queen Elizabeth’s coffin on Sunday before Monday’s state funeral in the presence of leaders from around the world .
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US President Joe Biden, who arrives in London with his wife Jill on Saturday evening, will meet with foreign heads of state, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, at the end of the day on Sunday for the first major diplomatic meeting of the new 73-year-old ruler.
They will gather on Monday morning among the 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey, where Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, to celebrate the culmination of tributes paid in popularity since the monarch’s death on September 8.
The public has until 6.30am (05.30 GMT) that day to gather in Westminster Hall, the oldest room in Britain’s Parliament, before the coffin of someone who has crossed the centuries with the same sense of duty.
But given the significant wait time for the parade in front of the coffin – announced at 1.30pm on Sunday morning – the now phenomenal queue is set to be closed to newcomers by the end of the day.
At 20:00 local time (19:00 GMT), the UK will freeze in a minute’s silence for a “moment of reflection” in memory of its monarch, who reigned for 70 years, an unprecedented longevity in British history.
While tens of thousands of people queued to see the monarch’s remains, only one incident stood out: a man was charged with disturbing public order after he left the line and approached the coffin on Friday, police said Saturday night.
On Saturday, King Charles and his son Prince William enjoyed a surprise walkabout near Lambeth Bridge.
The new sovereign, who was far less popular than his mother, exchanged a few words and shook hands, as he has done on several occasions during his tour of the UK’s four nations from Belfast to Cardiff this week.
“I saw the king! Our eyes met!” Geraldine Potts-Ahmad exclaimed through tears. “He will be the best king,” predicted the 50-year-old, still under the impression of emotions.
Now Prince of Wales William, 40, attended a vigil around the coffin of the Queen’s six other grandchildren on Saturday with his brother Harry, with whom he has a notoriously difficult relationship.
The two brothers were both dressed in military uniform, an outfit Harry hadn’t worn since his resounding retirement from the monarchy, as the audience continued to crowd either side of the coffin.
The Queen’s four children held a similar vigil on Friday.
As if to gauge and maintain the bond between Britons and the royal family, the children and grandchildren of the Queen so beloved by Britons have multiplied with the public in recent days, as the period of mourning stifles all other British news.
Early Saturday afternoon, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie greeted the crowd that had gathered near Buckingham Palace, the official residence of Elizabeth II during her more than 70-year reign until her death at the 96-year-old in Scotland Balmoral Castle.
In a recorded video message to be broadcast on BBC on Sunday, Queen Consort Camilla paid tribute to the Sovereign “who has always been a part of our lives” and underscored the difficulties Elizabeth II, “a lone woman”, faces in a world more masculine meeting heads of state and government.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meanwhile on Sky News praised the “constant reassuring presence” of the Queen, who has known 16 prime ministers in the country.
Like his counterparts Justin Trudeau (Canada) and Jacinda Ardern, the Australian head of state gathered in front of the coffin in Westminster Hall.
Organizing the state funeral, the first since that of Winston Churchill in 1965, poses an unprecedented challenge for London police.
“The largest operation” ever carried out by the London police, underlined the mayor of the capital Sadiq Khan during the visit of Charles and William to a command center on Saturday.
Backstage, rehearsals are in full swing and on the outskirts of Westminster, the most eager are already camping out to secure a front row seat.
Magdalena Staples, from northern England, who will have spent three nights under the tent with her family, tells AFP that she wants her children to “have the same experience” as she did when she attended Lady’s funeral 25 years ago Tue
Following a final procession, Elizabeth II will be buried privately alongside her father King George VI and her husband Prince Philip on Monday at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in west London.