LONDON– Britain and the world will bury Queen Elizabeth II at a state funeral on Monday that will draw presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers – and up to a million people who will line the streets of London to say a final farewell to a monarch whose 70th birthday has just died -Year reign defines an age.
A day of funeral services in London and Windsor got off to an early start as the doors of the 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands turned out to stand in front of her flag-draped coffin. Many had waited in line for hours, even on cold nights, to see the state lay in an outpouring of collective sadness and respect.
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“I felt I had to come and pay my last respects to our majestic Queen. She’s done so much for us and is just a little thank you from the people,” said Tracy Dobson, who was one of the last to join the line.
In a country known for pageantry and pageantry, the first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s promised to be a spectacular spectacle: 142 Royal Navy seamen will tow the gun carriage carrying Elizabeth’s coffin to Westminster Abbey, where 2,000 people, ranging from world leaders to Health workers, caregivers and volunteers plan to mourn her. Before the ceremony, one of the abbey’s bells will ring 96 times – once a minute for each year of its life.
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Monday was declared a bank holiday in honor of Elizabeth, who died on September 8 – and hundreds of thousands of people descended on central London to take part in this historic moment. Well before the service was due to begin, city officials said the viewing areas along the route of the funeral procession were full.
Millions more are expected to watch the funeral live on television, and crowds are flocking to parks and public spaces across the UK to see it on screens.
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The Duke and Duchess of York at the christening of their daughter Princess Elizabeth in 1926. (Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
The night before, King Charles III. issued a message of thanks to people in the UK and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the Queen consort, were “moved beyond measure” by the large number of people who had turned their backs. out to pay her respects to the queen.
“As we all prepare to say our final goodbyes, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the countless people who have been such support and comfort to my family and I during this time of grief,” he said he.
Following the funeral at the medieval abbey where Elizabeth was married and crowned, her coffin – surrounded by members of the armed forces in dress uniform and members of her family – is carried through the streets of the capital to Wellington Arch near Hyde Park.
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There it is placed in a hearse to be driven to Windsor Castle – where Elizabeth spent much of her time – for another procession before a surrender service at St George’s Chapel. She will be buried at a private family service with her late husband Prince Philip.
US President Joe Biden was among the leaders who paid their respects at the Queen’s coffin on Sunday, as thousands of police, hundreds of British soldiers and an army of civil servants made final preparations for the funeral.
Biden called Queen Elizabeth II “decent” and “honorable” and “everything about the service” when he signed the book of condolences, and said his heart is with the royal family.
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Mourners arrived to take their seats about three hours before the ceremony, and Biden entered the abbey about an hour before it began.
People across the UK observed a minute’s silence at 8pm on Sunday to commemorate the only monarch most have ever known. At Westminster Hall, the steady stream of mourners paused for 60 seconds as people watched the minute of reflection in deep silence.
It began to rain in Windsor as the crowd fell silent for a moment of contemplation. Some stayed outside the castle to reserve the best seats for viewing the Queen’s coffin.
Jilly Fitzgerald, who was in Windsor, said there was a sense of community among the mourners as they prepared to wait for hours to see the procession carry the Queen’s coffin.
“It’s good to be with all the people who all feel the same. It’s like a big family because everyone feels like … the Queen was part of their family,” she said.
Associated Press journalists Sylvia Hui, Samya Kullab and David Keyton contributed to this report.
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