It's about to start, the big goodbye for Queen Elizabeth: hours before the start of the state funeral, the doors of Westminster Abbey in London were opened to the guests on Monday morning. Members of the King's Guards, responsible for guarding the royal residences, marched through the gates. Two soldiers stationed themselves at the entrance.
The service is scheduled to begin at 12:00 noon (CEST). 2000 guests are expected, including numerous crowned heads and heads of state. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take to the streets of London to follow the action. An enormous challenge for the authorities too: the police, secret services and anti-terrorist units are coordinating what is probably the largest security operation the city has ever experienced. Meanwhile, the country is standing still - schools and universities as well as shops and pubs are closed almost everywhere.
Funeral for the family on Monday evening
After the service to start the state funeral, the coffin is taken to Windsor Castle. The family burial will take place there on Monday evening.
However, the journey there did not go very smoothly for many of the mourners in the morning. Due to damage to the overhead line, rail traffic came to a standstill on an important train route towards Windsor. Thousands would probably miss the ceremony in the town west of London, said the train operator South Western Railways and apologized to those affected. According to the British news agency PA, the route from the airport to central London is also affected.
In preparation for the funeral procession in the city center, Westminster Hall with the monarch's coffin was closed to the public early in the morning. During the night and until early Monday morning, many people flocked to the oldest building in the British Parliament to pay their last respects to the Queen.
Immediately before the end of the public laying-out, Chrissy Heerey was the last mourner to say goodbye. Television images showed Heerey bowing to the closed coffin at Westminster Hall early Monday morning. "I was the last person to pay my respects to the Queen and it felt like a real privilege to do so," said the British Air Force member.
The coffin, on which the royal crown, scepter and orb rest, had been laid out in Westminster Hall since Wednesday. Since then, many thousands of people had joined the kilometer-long queue and waited many hours to pay their respects.
At 11:44 a.m. (CEST), the coffin is to be brought to nearby Westminster Abbey in a procession on a carriage drawn by 98 marines - a wagon intended for cannons. King Charles III, his three siblings, and his sons Prince William and Prince Harry are again to give the coffin the final escort on foot. Many onlookers secured a place on the procession route the day before, equipped with tents, sleeping bags and camping chairs.
For those unable to travel to London or Windsor, the memorial service will be broadcast in 125 cinemas and many churches across the country. Screens were also set up in public places. In Northern Ireland, for example, the event is to be shown in parks and public buildings.
King Charles III is "deeply touched"
In a statement in the evening, the king was “deeply touched” by the many messages of sympathy. The 73-year-old thanked the "countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and me during this time of grief". The Queen died on September 8th at the age of 96.
US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Japanese Emperor Naruhito will now bid farewell to their respective partners in Westminster Abbey. The Swedish King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia as well as the Spanish King Felipe and Queen Letizia also paid their respects at the coffin.
The BBC quoted a foreign diplomat as saying: "This is the funeral of the century". Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also spoke of an "event of the century". "People were used to gathering behind this queen for over 70 years, and now everyone feels that something is missing, and that's not just missing in Great Britain and London, but it's missing worldwide," said Steinmeier on ZDF-"heute journal".