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Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral: London’s biggest logistical challenge in decades

More than 500 sitting and former heads of state will gather in the British capital to honor the deceased monarch

Live coverage of the funeral
Rafa de Miguel

About 500 sitting and former heads of state gathered in the British capital on Monday for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. They met at the Royal Chelsea Hospital – a care center for military veterans and retirees in West London – and were transported by bus to Westminster Abbey. However, US President Joe Biden arrived in his armored limousine.

About 2,000 guests attended the religious service, which began at 11am GMT (6am EST) on Monday. Together with the representatives of all the invited nations – Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Russia, Belarus and Myanmar are some of the countries that have been left out – members of the British government paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth.

The British Foreign Office imposed a limit on the number of attendees from each foreign delegation. A memo was sent to all embassies earlier this week: “Because of limited space at the state funeral service and associated events, no other members of the principal guest’s family, staff or entourage may be admitted.”

Some 10,000 police officers made up the security deployment throughout the city, along with about 1,500 soldiers. Hundreds of volunteers spread across London were on site to offer assistance to visitors. More than one million people were estimated to have made their way to the capital to catch a glimpse of the funeral.

On Saturday, the queue of citizens patiently waiting to say goodbye to the monarch stretched more than five miles, reaching the capacity limit foreseen by the government logistics team. Access to the general line was closed by midday, to the frustration of many.

On Monday, the queen’s coffin was carried from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey on the State Gun Carriage of the Royal Navy. It was a short route: just a few hundred feet, on the same carriage that delivered Queen Victoria and UK prime minister Winston Churchill to their final resting places. A total of 142 members of the Royal Navy accompanied the coffin – ahead of them paraded pipers from the Scottish and Irish regiments, a brigade of Gurkhas (the historic mercenary army of the British East India Company) and 200 members of the Royal Air Force. Behind the coffin, King Charles III and his two sons – William and Harry – walked alongside other members of the royal family.

At the end of the religious ceremony, two minutes of silence was observed in Westminster Abbey and throughout the United Kingdom in tribute to the deceased monarch. This was broken by the national anthem, as well as by the queen’s personal bagpiper.

The last funeral procession – visible to tens of thousands of people concentrated in central London, as well as millions of viewers around the world – will move Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch. From there, a hearse will take the coffin to Windsor Castle, where the monarch spent the years of the pandemic. She will be laid to rest in St. George’s Chapel, within the grounds of Windsor, next to her husband, Philip of Edinburgh, who died in April 2021. At 7.30pm GMT on Monday (2.30pm EST), members of the royal family will attend a private religious ceremony in the chapel and say a final goodbye.

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