British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8, aged 96, after ruling for 70 years, is being accorded a state funeral on Monday at Westminster Abbey, with as many as 2 million people expected to line the streets to see her cortege, CNN reports.
International dignitaries attending alongside the British royal family include President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden and all of the heads of the Commonwealth including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indian President Droupadi Murmu and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Joining them will be President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska and the presidents of Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Poland, among other representatives.
By 6 a.m., people were already filtering on to the Tube with bunches of supermarket flowers, Union Jacks and small step ladders and foldaway chairs in hand. On the Mall, leading up to Buckingham Palace, entire families were camped along either side, evidently unbothered by the early hour, only eager to catch a glimpse of the Queen’s final drive away from her London home, which is — at time of publication — still about five hours away. A cheer goes up every time guards on horseback hit the road.
As delegates began to pile into Westminister Abbey, Scott McLean, International Correspondent for CNN, spoke to Christina Heerey, the last woman who got to see the Queen’s coffin before the Abbey closed its doors. Heerey had waited in line for hours and had paid respects already. But “since the line was quick, I thought to do it again.”
She turned out to be the last member of the public who had spent the last few days lining up for hours to see the coffin.
McLean commented on the people lining streets by the Abbey being lined 6 to 9 people deep and spoke with a woman who had spent hours waiting. She had met the Queen in 2012. “It was wonderful,” she recalled. “I was humbled; it was the best day of my life.” When asked what the Queen meant to her, she replied, “She represents fairness, equality and stability. That’s why it was appropriate for me to pay our last respects.”
Another woman had brought her young children in the hopes they would remember the historic event. She told McLean, “They might never have another Queen in their lifetime, so this was important.”
London resident Lorraine O’Connor queued up for 12 hours over the weekend to pay her respects to the Queen. “A group of us found each other that day and we’re going to stay in touch. It was a somber day but a lovely day,” she says of the lengthy line that made international headlines. Less than a day later, O’Connor felt compelled to get as close as she could to the funeral as well.
“I do like the Queen and the Royal Family but it’s mainly my mum who loved the royals. She passed away and I know she’d want me to be here,” the 52-year-old told Variety.
O’Connor was among thousands lined up along Pall Mall on Monday morning, but had managed to score a plum viewing position close to Buckingham Palace, where the procession is expected to pass around noon.
Lisa Dunne traveled into London from her home in Worcester over the weekend, and stayed in an Ealing hotel overnight before setting off around 4am to get a good spot for the funeral procession.
Why brave heaving crowds instead of leisurely watching the funeral from home? “You just get the general feel of it — the atmosphere and the camaraderie,” said Dunne, who came into town for the weddings of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince William and Kate Middleton.
“Our family are royalists. [The Queen] has been there since I was inborn. We’ve just got a lot of respect for her — the utmost respect.”
Actor Felicity Kendal, best known for playing Barbara in “The Good Life” and Lady Eddison in “Doctor Who,” who was also friendly with the Queen’s late sister Princess Margaret, was interviewed on BBC News by Huw Edwards about her thoughts. “Well today is very special, isn’t it?” Kendal said. “It’s a kind of day of thanksgiving and saying goodbye so today is particularly painful I suppose. But the last few days I’ve noticed that it has been an extraordinary combination of people from every walk, from every age, every race, every creed, every kind of family and there’s this collective need to go and pay respects to this most extraordinary of women and to just say thank you for the lessons, for the dignity, for the service that she promised as a young girl and she has fulfilled and it is a lesson to us all that we should take really to our hearts.”
“One of the things that is most stunning is that in this world where selfies and ‘I am here’ and ‘Yes, I put my mark on this and it’s all about me being involved’ there is this pilgrimage that has been going through, paying respects and there is not a mobile [phone] in sight,” Kendal added. “It is absolutely in the moment. It is there for her, with her, recognizing her, and that moment will be over in a moment, it’s gone and I think the combination of real grief that it’s over is the fact that today she is gone. And for 10 days people have been saying ‘Yes, remember her’ and now that is going to come to an end in one sense, you can no longer pay respects, her family having to grieve in public and I hope they get some comfort from this universal outpouring.”
Sebastian Coe, former Olympic medalist who was responsible for organizing the London 2012 Olympics – including the Queen’s iconic sketch with Daniel Craig, which opened the ceremony – was also interviewed by Edwards. “There isn’t a day that goes by without someone somewhere in the world [mentioning the Daniel Craig sketch] and a whole heap of people still believe she did jump from the helicopter,” he said. “It was an extraordinary moment because Danny Boyle, who was our director, it was the only day throughout the 7-year period of [organizing] the Games when I did genuinely feel the glow wobbling. He came in and said, ‘We’ve done some market research and it shows the Queen and James Bond in that order are the iconic global figures [for Britain].’ And I was buying it right up to that moment until he said ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea if we could get them to jump out of a helicopter together?’ And in fairness of course it was Danny that actually got it across the line, the great republican [anti-monarchist], who actually turned down a knighthood for his efforts in delivering the opening ceremony, sat with Her Majesty, and there are lots of things that are said about it but actually it was Danny who persuaded her.”
“My first role was actually to take [Princess Anne] the Princess Royal through the creative thoughts,” Coe added. “I remember [showing her] these rather hammed-up drawings and showing her the helicopter and the only question I got at the end of it was ‘What kind of helicopter?’ And I realized of course [Anne] knew everything about helicopters. She said, ‘Well of course you wouldn’t get a Chinook under Tower Bridge. You might get a Sea King and it would need to be a twin engine.’ Of all the questions I thought I’d get. But that’s how it started.”
ITV interviewed Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party. “I had the privilege personally of meeting her a number of times when I was Director of Public Prosecutions. She was meeting senior civil servants to talk about the work that they were doing,” Starmer said. “The level of scrutiny – she wanted to understand what was going on. It was really quite incredible.”
“One of the times I met her, we’d just finished a major prosecution of a group of terrorists who wanted to blow up seven planes at the same time across the Atlantic, there was an incredible police operation coupled with prosecutors at the Crown Prosecution Service – she was so interested. It was never a formality – something that she felt she had to do,” Starmer added.
On the BBC, Andrew Lloyd Webber was interviewed by anchor Huw Edwards. “It is a really a day where we all I think have to reflect on one of the most remarkable women than anybody will ever see,” the musical impresario told Edwards. “She represented stability at a time when there’s been so much change and I think the outpouring that we’ve seen in the last week – I’ve been in New York actually [over] the last week and it’s extraordinary how even there it has deeply, deeply touched people – all I can say is I feel very very very lucky and privileged to have actually met what appears yo be the most remarkable woman of the last 50 years, 70 years, what more can one say.”
Lloyd Webber also reflected on his personal relationship with the Queen, whom he got to know over the years and even once invited to his home. “My first meeting would have been probably at various openings but I got to know her rather better when some years ago, well it would be for her 60th birthday, [the Queen’s youngest son] Prince Edward asked me if I would write a musical which was performed at Windsor which I wrote with Tim Rice,” Lloyd Webber said. “And that led to Edward coming and working in my company and over the years then I got to know her a little bit sort of off duty. She was always ‘The Queen’ but it was quite wonderful to have the occasional chat with her, sometimes the odd disagreement even. But one of the things I was quite amused about was that she didn’t share my love of Victorian architecture.”
“She came to my home when we wanted to play her informally the song that I wrote with Gary Barlow which was called ‘Sing,’” Lloyd Webber added. “And we put together a choir of racing people because of course the Queen’s love of racing we all know. I won’t say it was the best choir that I’ve ever had but we put that together and sang the song for her and she was wonderfully generous about it and we performed one or two other songs too. Because I knew she had a great love of Rodgers and Hammerstein from her childhood days so we did ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’ and actually we did ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ which went very well sung by the wonderful Jessie Buckley. It was a great honour but it was a lovely evening.”
President Biden has arrived at Wesminster Abbet alongside the First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. Preceding him by a few minutes were the Queen’s crown carrier, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley and his wife Rose. Already seated are French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron as well as London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his wife Saadiya Khan, who are sat next to the Queen’s personal physician Professor Huw Thomas. It was Professor Thomas who is believed to have overseen the statement released by Buckingham Palace on Sept. 8, hours before the Queen’s death was announced, which first alerted the world that doctors were “concerned” for Her Majesty’s health.
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