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World stands still today for historic Queen’s funeral

By Tunde Oyedoyin (London) and Ngozi Egenuka (Lagos)
19 September 2022   |   4:20 am
The finality about death will hit home, today, as thousands file the streets from Westminster Abbey to St George’s Chapel in Windsor, final resting place, to wave their last goodbye to the flag-draped oak coffin ...

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo signing the condolence register of Queen Elizabeth ll in London ahead of the funeral at Lancaster House, London…yesterday. PHOTO: NAN

• To be buried at Windsor Castle beside husband
• Discussion about funeral service began in 2005
• 500 global leaders in London
• King Charles hosts Biden, Macron, Osinbajo to private reception

The finality about death will hit home, today, as thousands file the streets from Westminster Abbey to St George’s Chapel in Windsor, final resting place, to wave their last goodbye to the flag-draped oak coffin carrying the only monarch most Britons have ever known, Queen Elizabeth II, while millions around the world will stay glued to large screens and TV sets for the state funeral capping 10 days of mourning.

Guests, yesterday, arrived for ‘reception of the century’ at Buckingham Palace, as King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla welcomed royals and world leaders, including United States President, Joe Biden, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to a private reception, where they paid their respects ahead of the Queen’s funeral. It was one of the largest gathering of world leaders seen in recent years.

Upon his arrival in London, yesterday, according to Osinbajo’s media aide, Laolu Akande, the Vice President paid respects at the Queen’s lying-in-state at Westminster. He also signed the condolence register, saying, “Nigeria joins government, people of UK, Commonwealth, and rest of the world in expressing our sincere condolence to the royal family on the passing of a monarch for all seasons. May the Lord bless her memory.”

Thereafter, Akande in a tweet, said Osinbajo was received by UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, James Cleverly.

At the meeting, Cleverly expressed gratitude for Nigeria’s solidarity with UK at its time of grief and both men discussed the interest of the British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, in deepening relationship with Nigeria.

Queen Elizabeth ll was the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving British monarch after a 70-year-reign. She passed on at 96 on September 8 at the Balmoral Castle home in Scotland.

Ahead of her funeral, more world leaders have begun to arrive in London, with 500 Heads of State and foreign dignitaries invited.

Earlier on Sunday, US President, Biden, who was in Westminster Hall alongside his wife, Jill, to pay his respects to the late British monarch, was seen appearing on the balcony overlooking Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin.

Others, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, also paid their respects to the late queen as her body lied in state in Westminster Hall.

Eleven days after her passing, Britain’s longest serving monarch will be buried beside her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh at the King George VI memorial Chapel inside St George’s Chapel in Windsor at 7:30p.m.

Her lying-in-state, which began at Westminster Hall at 5:30p.m. last Wednesday, will be closed at 6:30a.m. today. Mourners, including visitors from across the globe, have been queuing for more than 10 hours to pay their last respects since the lying-in-state started.

As at 4:00p.m. yesterday, the waiting time was estimated to be about 10 hours, about five miles (eight kilometers) of people lining up to file past the coffin in Westminster Hall and people around central London planning to join were advised not to bother, so as not to be disappointed if they don’t make it to Westminster Hall by 6:30a.m.

The London Ambulance Service said it has treated more than 1,000 people who have been queuing to see the Queen’s lying-in-state since Thursday.

In an update, LAS said medics provided care to 368 people yesterday, of which 55 patients were taken to hospital. It brings the total number of people seen by LAS and St Johns’ Ambulance to 1,078 with 136 ending up in hospital.

All eyes will be on the funeral service at Westminster Abbey, for what is one of the most anticipated and historic events ever. The London Metropolitan Police have already described it as their “biggest ever operation.”

The funeral service is expected to be just for an hour beginning at 11:00a.m. in front of a congregation of 2,000. At 10:44a.m., King Charles III will lead the family as the late Queen’s body is moved from Westminster Hall to nearby Westminster Abbey for the service. It will arrive eight minutes later. At 11:00a.m., the Dean of Westminster will start the hour long service. At 11:55a.m., five minutes before the service ends, there will be a two minutes silence inside the church and across the United Kingdom. At noon, the service ends.  

It was revealed on a BBC live broadcast on Sunday that the Queen didn’t want the service to be long. Speaking on the programme, former Archbishop of York, Lord John Sentamu, said discussions about her funeral, which nobody knew of, was held with the late Queen as far back as 2005 when he became the Archbishop. “The Queen did not want a long boring service,” he said.

The state funeral will be a mix of pomp, history and tradition and will involve about 6,000 well-choreographed members of the armed forces in both London and Windsor. Rehearsals took place in the past few days at both locations. Part of it was in the early hours of yesterday at 3:00a.m.  

Soon afterward, the King will lead the family on a walking procession of the coffin to Wellington Arch. At 1:00p.m., her coffin will then be transferred to the new state hearse for the two-hour drive to Windsor Castle. From 3:10p.m., members of the armed forces will line the route during a walking procession.

At 4:00p.m., the committal service kicks off inside the St George’s Chapel and at 7:30p.m., the late sovereign will be buried with her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the King George VI Chapel, which is within St. George’s Chapel.  

While 125 movie theatres will open their doors to broadcast the funeral live in London, 2,868 diamonds, along with 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies sparkled in the Imperial State Crown that rested on the queen’s coffin as it lay in state.

The funeral involves the biggest security operation London has ever seen. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the state funeral is an ‘unprecedented’ security challenge, with hundreds of thousands of people packing central London and a funeral guest list of 500 emperors, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and other leaders from around the world.

“It’s been decades since this many world leaders were in one place,” Khan said. “This is unprecedented in relation to the various things that we’re juggling. There could be bad people wanting to cause damage to individuals or to some of our world leaders.

“So, we are working incredibly hard – the police, security services and many others – to make sure this state funeral is as successful as it can be.”

Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Stuart Cundy, said the ‘hugely complex’ policing operation is the biggest in the London force’s history, surpassing the London 2012 Olympics. He said the goal was to keep the event safe, “and try to do it in as unobtrusive a way as possible, because this is obviously a solemn occasion.”

More than 10,000 police officers will be on duty today, with London officers supplemented by reinforcements from all of Britain’s 43 police forces. Hundreds of volunteer marshals and members of the armed forces will also act as stewards along the processional route.

They are just the most visible part of a security operation that is being run from a high-tech control center near Lambeth Bridge, not far from Parliament.

Street drains and garbage bins are being searched and sealed. Tomorrow there will be police spotters on rooftops, sniffer dogs on the streets, marine officers on the River Thames and mounted police on horseback. 

Flying drones over Central London has been temporarily banned, and Heathrow Airport is grounding scores of flights so that aircraft noise does not disturb the funeral service.