LONDON (Globe Live Media) — U.S. President Joe Biden paid his respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday as thousands of police officers, hundreds of British soldiers and an army of officials made final preparations for the state funeral. of the queen, a spectacular show of national mourning that will also be the largest gathering of world leaders in years.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden were among thousands of mourners, from locals and tourists to royals and world leaders, to pay their respects at Westminster Hall, where the queen lies in state. The president made the sign of the cross and put his hand to his heart as he stood quietly near the casket in the ornate 900-year-old hall with his wife and US Ambassador Jane Hartley.
Biden then signed the official book of condolences and attended a reception on Sunday at Buckingham Palace hosted by King Charles III. He is one of 500 world leaders and royals invited to the queen’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey on Monday, along with hundreds of British charity workers.
Biden called Queen Elizabeth II “decent” and “honorable” and “all about service” when he signed the condolence book, saying his heart went out to the royal family.
“Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people,” Jill Biden wrote in a book for spouses and ambassadors. “She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, her kindness, and the conversations we shared.”
As the dignitaries arrived, time was running out for those seeking a place in the longest queue many have ever seen to pass in front of the queen’s coffin. The mile-long line is expected to close to new arrivals later on Sunday so that everyone now in line can see the coffin before Monday morning, when it will be taken to Westminster Abbey for the queen’s funeral
Family by family, thousands of people continued to join the line throughout the day, braving overnight temperatures and waits of up to 17 hours in a line that stretched more than 5 miles (8 kilometers).
Lauren Wilson, a 36-year-old student, was in the much shorter queue for people with mobility issues. She said that she wanted to experience the state of the coffin in person.
“The world is in such a strange place and then this happened. It feels more momentous,” she said.
She worried that the pomp surrounding Elizabeth’s death would deprive the queen’s relatives of the ability to come to terms with their loss.
“The family is not allowed to cry. I find it quite heartbreaking,” she said.
The queen’s eight grandchildren, led by heir to the throne Prince William, surrounded the coffin and stood with bowed heads during a silent vigil on Saturday night.
Among the foreign leaders in London was New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told the BBC she was honored to represent her nation at the funeral and to witness the national outpouring of grief and respect for the late queen.
“What I will take away from this period is just the beauty of the response from the public, the kindness that you see from members of the public, the patience, the camaraderie. That has been, to me, the most moving tribute of all, it has been the public response of the British people,” she said.
People across the UK will also pause on Sunday night for a minute’s silence across the country to remember the queen, who died on September 8 aged 96 after 70 years on the throne. Monday has been declared a public holiday, and the funeral will be broadcast to a large television audience around the world and projected to crowds in parks and public spaces across the country.
Police officers from across the country will be on duty as part of the largest one-day police operation in London’s history.
Crowds also gathered on Sunday near Windsor Castle, where the queen will be laid to rest in a private family ceremony on Monday night.
Steve Beeson arrived with his family of three and a bouquet of flowers he had bought for the queen.
“She has been a constant in stabilizing the reins of the country during all these really difficult times, the least we can do is come and say ‘Thank you,’” he said.
Camilla, the queen consort, paid tribute to her mother-in-law in a video message, saying the monarch “cast her own role” as a “lonely woman” on a male-dominated world stage.
“I will always remember his smile. That smile is unforgettable,” said Camilla, who is married to Charles.
Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, was also among the mourners paying their respects at the queen’s coffin. British royal officials said Zelenska met Catherine, the Princess of Wales, at Buckingham Palace on Sunday afternoon. They did not release further details. The British government has been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters since it was invaded by Russia in February.
On Saturday night, it was time for the grandchildren to grieve. William and Prince Harry, Charles’ children, were joined by Princess Anne’s children Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and Prince Edward’s two children: Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.
William stood with his head bowed at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both princes, who are military veterans, wore uniforms. The crowd continued to file slowly, in silence.
“You could see they were thinking a lot about their grandmother, the queen,” said Ian Mockett, a civil engineer from Oxford, in southern England. “It was good to see them all together as a set of grandchildren, given the things that have happened in the last few years.”
The wake continues until early Monday morning, when the queen’s coffin will be transferred in an armored cart pulled by 142 Royal Navy sailors to nearby Westminster Abbey for the funeral, the end of 10 days of national mourning for the reign. oldest in Britain. monarch.
Following Monday’s service at the abbey, the late queen’s coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London in the state carriage. It will then be taken in a hearse to Windsor, where the queen will be buried next to her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99.
Sumita Tanda laid out bright red roses as a grand floral tribute bloomed near Windsor Castle.
“I feel so privileged to be a local Windsor resident,” she said. “I just wanted to pay my respects.”