US President Joe Biden paid his final respects in London to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday as time passed for ordinary mourners to view her coffin ahead of the funeral.
Biden signed himself and put his hand to his heart as he stood with his wife Jill on a gallery overlooking the flag-draped coffin in the cavernous Westminster Hall as members of the public filed past.
After witnessing the grim scene, the US leader, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, French President Emmanuel Macron and other heads of state from around the world headed to a reception with King Charles III.
Biden, who arrived on Saturday evening, said the mother of Charles, who reigned for a record 70 years until her death on September 8 at the age of 96, “defined an era.”
Australia’s anti-monarchy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who saw the lie and met Charles on Saturday, told Sky News Australia the Queen was “a constant reassuring presence”.
There was also a private audience at Buckingham Palace for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, which, like Australia and 12 other Commonwealth realms, now counts Charles as its sovereign.
“You could see it meant a lot (to Charles) to have seen the extent and outpouring of people’s love and affection for her late Majesty,” she said on television on Sunday. from the BBC.
But in a sign of challenges ahead for the new king, Ardern added that she expected New Zealand to abandon the British monarchy “within my lifetime”.
Members of the public were already camped out in advance to catch a glimpse of Monday’s grand farewell at Westminster Abbey, which is set to paralyze London and be watched by billions of viewers around the world.
– The ‘glue’ of the country –
EJ Kelly, a 46-year-old schoolteacher from Northern Ireland, secured a prominent place with friends on the route the motorcade will take after the funeral.
“Watching it on TV is wonderful but being here is something else,” she told AFP, equipped with camping chairs, warm clothes and extra socks.
“I’m probably going to feel very emotional about this, but I wanted to be here to pay my respects.”
Crowds also thronged around Windsor Castle, west London, where the Queen’s coffin will be taken after the service for a private burial to rest her alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, of his parents and his sister.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen it so busy,” said Donna Lumbard, 32, manager of a local restaurant.
Beginning with a single toll from Big Ben, British Prime Minister Liz Truss will lead a national minute of silence at 8:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Sunday to reflect on the Queen’s “life and legacy”.
Near the Scottish town of Falkirk, 96 lanterns were to be lowered into a “reflecting pool” at the foot of the Queen Elizabeth II Canal, before wreaths were laid in the water.
Those wishing to view the flag-draped coffin have until 6:30 a.m. (0530 GMT) Monday to turn up at Westminster Hall opposite the Abbey.
As the queue continued to meander for miles (kilometers) along the Thames on Sunday, the waiting time was over nine hours and the line is expected to be closed by the evening.
“To avoid disappointment, please do not stand in the queue,” the government said.
Andy Sanderson, 46, a supermarket manager, was in the queue and eventually reached parliament.
“She was the glue that held the country together,” he said.
“She doesn’t have an agenda unlike politicians, so she can speak for the people.”
– Grandchildren’s vigil –
As mourners slowly filed past on Saturday evening, Prince William and his younger brother Prince Harry led the Queen’s eight grandchildren in a 12-minute vigil around the coffin.
Harry – who completed two tours with the British Army in Afghanistan – wore the uniform of the Blues and Royals cavalry regiment in which he served.
The move appeared to be the last olive branch offered by Charles to Harry and his wife Meghan after they quit royal duties and moved to North America, later accusing the royal family of racism.
Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral, the first in Britain since the death of her first Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, will take place at Westminster Abbey at 11 a.m. on Monday.
Reflecting on the Queen’s wishes for the hour-long ceremony, former Archbishop of York John Sentamu said she ‘didn’t want what you call long and boring services’.
“People’s hearts and shells will be warmed,” he told the BBC.
– Tributes from Camilla, Andrew –
Leaders from Russia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and North Korea were not invited to join the 2,000 invitees.
Last week, the Moscow Foreign Ministry called the decision “deeply immoral” and “blasphemous” in memory of the queen. China will attend the abbey, but has been prevented by parliamentary leaders from going in state.
As their private grief has played out in the spotlight of global attention, a new opinion poll from YouGov has shown the royal family’s popularity has risen in the UK.
William and his wife Kate topped the ranking of the most popular royals while Charles has seen his approval rating rise by 16 points since May.
The Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, in disgrace for his links to US billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, paid tribute on Sunday to the Queen’s “infinite knowledge and wisdom, without borders or confinement”.
Camilla made her first public comments as the new queen consort, recalling her mother-in-law’s smile and “wonderful blue eyes”.
“It must have been so hard for her to be a lonely woman” in a male-dominated world, Charles’ wife said in televised comments.
“There were no female prime ministers or presidents. She was the only one so I think she carved out her own role.”
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