UNITED KINGDOM: The doors of the grand Westminster Abbey in London have opened ahead of the state funeral of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Her son and next-in-line, the newly crowned King Charles III, will lead a sombre procession behind his mother’s coffin on the short journey from Westminster Hall to the abbey later on.
The abbey’s bell began to ring a minute ahead of the service which will begin at 11:00 BST. The event marks the end of 10 days of events across the UK since the Queen’s demise.
London streets are in chaos, barricaded and many roads and bridges are closed due to heavy traffic as the city prepares for as many as one million visitors to arrive for the mourning.
All public viewing areas for the procession are already filled up to the brim, London’s City Hall said.
Before the service begins, the Queen’s coffin will be conveyed in the first of three processions throughout the day through Parliament Square, a distance of about 820ft (250m).
The Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sussex will once more walk side-by-side behind their father, who will walk alongside his siblings, the Queen’s four children.
Two of the Queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George, nine, and Princess Charlotte, seven, will also join the procession and walk behind the coffin to pay their last respects to their beloved ‘Gan Gan’.
The State Gun Carriage will carry the coffin, drawn by 142 sailors. A guard of honour will stand in the square made up of all three military services, accompanied by a Royal Marines band.
The final people to attend the Queen’s lying-in-state paid their respects at Westminster Hall just after 06:30, after four-and-a-half days and a queue which stretched as far as Southwark Park in south-east London.
Around 2,000 mourners are expected to pay their respects to the Queen at the state funeral, including 500 dignitaries with presidents, prime ministers, foreign delegations, and foreign royalty among the guests.
Allies US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron will be joined by their Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau at the event. Ukraine’s First lady Olena Zelenska will also be present at the Abbey.
There will also be members of many European royal families, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark, as well as the Emperor and Empress of Japan.
Others who have arrived already include Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, the UK’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty, Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg and Northern Ireland’s former first minister Arlene Foster.
Around 200 people who were recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours also received invitations. Knife crime campaigner Natalie Queiroz told BBC Breakfast she was “totally speechless” when she was asked to attend.
“I think it reflects Her Majesty because she wanted to constantly be in touch with her people and even in her final moments she’s made sure that her people are here represented.”
Barbara Crellin, a volunteer emergency responder, said she “just cried and cried” when she was invited and described herself as “so humbled and privileged to be here”.
Foreign dignitaries are also set to arrive at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, from which they will be transported on busses to Westminster Abbey.
Some 4,000 police personnel are installed as security forces in charge of this grand procession amid countless mourners who have already begun to line the streets of London in preparation for a final glimpse of the Queen’s final journey.
Millions of people will be watching across the country and most workplaces are closed for a bank holiday. The procession will be televised so that millions around the world can watch it.
For those not invited big screens have been put up in cities across the country, while some cinemas, pubs and other venues are also showing the once-in-a-generation event.