Britain’s biggest-ever funeral
London: President of India Droupadi Murmu will be among 500 foreign dignitaries who will attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – who ruled for a record 70 years – on Monday September 19.
Britain’s broadcaster BBC commented it will be “in the 21st Century, an event beyond compare”.
Murmu has been invited for a state reception at Buckingham Palace in London being hosted by King Charles III, who succeeded Elizabeth, and Queen Consort Camilla for foreign dignitaries today Sunday. This will take place after the visiting leaders have paid their respects to the body lying-in-state in a coffin with a bejewelled crown above it in Westminster Hall in the United Kingdom’s Houses of Parliament.
The Earl Marshall the Duke of Norfolk, who is overseeing the elaborate arrangements, told media: “It is our aim and belief that the state funeral and events of the next few days will unite people across the globe.”
There will be more than 2,000 guests attending the service at Westminster Abbey in central London opposite the Houses of Parliament known at the Palace of Westminster, where the body has been lying-in-state for several days, with an estimated 750,000 Britons and foreigners filing past it. Around 4,000 personnel of the armed forces will participate in the ceremonies. The television audience is forecast to be in the billions.
In what will be the first state funeral in Britain since the one held for the heroic Second World War prime minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the emperor of Japan will be present, as will be the kings and queens from Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.
Leading the list of heads of state or government will be the president of the United States Joe Biden and French president Emmanuel Macron. Germany following protocol is sending its head of state president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and not its head of government chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Chinese president Xi Jinping was extended an invitation. This gave rise to some British members of parliament voicing their objection. Wang Qishan, vice-president of China, could instead represent the People’s Republic.
Russia, Belarus, Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Venezuela are among the few nations who are not on the guest list. The invitation to North Korea is only at the level of its ambassador in the United Kingdom.
The dress code laid down for members of the British royal family for the ceremonies has been the subject of much debate on the UK’s media. For the service at the Abbey and ceremonies on Monday, King Charles III, his son Prince William, now the heir to the throne, Charles’ sister Princess Anne and brother Prince Edward will wear military uniform. Charles’ brother Andrew and younger son Prince Harry, who are no longer ‘working royals’, have been relegated to civilian attire.
The funeral will begin at 3.30 p.m. Indian Standard Time and is expected last an hour. The Last Post on a bugle will be sounded when the service concludes. A two-minute silence will follow. Thereafter, the body will be taken to Windsor Castle – a British royal residence 25 miles west of the capital. Her final resting place will be at the chapel there beside her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died in 2021.
The monarchs, presidents and prime ministers present would constitute one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history – to pay tribute to one of the most recognised world figures, who was also the head of the Commonwealth – an association of 54 countries, including India.
Sources at Buckingham Palace revealed Elizabeth was herself involved in the planning of her funeral.
Monday has been declared a Bank Holiday in Britain.