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Queen Elizabeth death: Final preparations underway for Her Majesty's state funeral

Thousands of police, hundreds of troops and an army of officials have made their final preparations for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II – a spectacular display of national mourning that will also be the biggest gathering of world leaders for years.

The funeral will take place at 10pm tonight NZ time. There will be a live stream on nzherald.co.nz.

US President Joe Biden and other dignitaries are arriving in London for the funeral, to which around 500 royals, heads of state and heads of government from around the globe have been invited.

Biden called Queen Elizabeth II “decent” and “honorable” as he signed a condolence book Sunday, saying his heart went out to the royal family.

Biden sat down at a simple table draped in blue with a framed photo of the Queen and bouquet of white flowers and wrote a note in the book before speaking briefly. He said the Queen treated people with dignity.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall. Photo / APUS President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state in Westminster Hall. Photo / AP

Jill Biden signed the book specific for spouses and ambassadors at a similar table in a different room of Lancaster House. “Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people,” Jill Biden wrote. “She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”

Thousands of people continued to line up around the clock to file past the Queen’s coffin as it lies in state at Parliament’s Westminster Hall, braving chilly overnight temperatures and waits of up to 17 hours.

The Queen’s eight grandchildren, led by heir to the throne Prince William, circled the coffin and stood with heads bowed during a silent vigil yesterday.

The miles-long queue was expected to be closed to new arrivals this morning so that everyone in line can file past the coffin before tonight, when it will be borne on a gun carriage to Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s funeral.

People across the UK are due to pause for a nationwide minute of silence to remember the Queen, who died September 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne.

Monday has been declared a public holiday in the UK, and the funeral will be broadcast to a huge television audience and screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the country.

A ray of sun shines on the coffin as members of the public file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo / APA ray of sun shines on the coffin as members of the public file past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo / AP

Thousands of police officers from around the country will be on duty as part of the biggest one-day policing operation in London’s history.

Camilla, the new Queen Consort, paid tribute to the Queen in a video message, saying the monarch “carved her own role” as a “solitary woman” on a world stage dominated by men.

“I will always remember her smile,” said Camilla, who is married to King Charles III.

“That smile is unforgettable.”

Camilla, the new Queen Consort, paid tribute to the Queen in a video message. Photo / APCamilla, the new Queen Consort, paid tribute to the Queen in a video message. Photo / AP

A tide of people continued to stream into Parliament’s Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s coffin is lying in state, draped in her Royal Standard and capped with a diamond-studded crown.

The number of mourners has grown steadily since the public was first admitted on Wednesday, with a queue that stretches for at least eight kilometres along the River Thames and into Southwark Park in the city’s southeast.

Honouring their patience, Charles and William made an unannounced visit over the weekend to greet people in the line, shaking hands and thanking mourners in the queue near Lambeth Bridge.

Later, all the Queen’s grandchildren stood by her coffin. William and Prince Harry, Charles’ sons, were joined by Princess Anne’s children, Zara Tindall and Peter Philips; Prince Andrew’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie; and the two children of Prince Edward — Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn.

Left to right: Zara Tindall, Lady Louise, Princess Beatrice, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie, James Viscount Severn and Peter Phillips attend the vigil of the Queen. Photo / APLeft to right: Zara Tindall, Lady Louise, Princess Beatrice, Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Eugenie, James Viscount Severn and Peter Phillips attend the vigil of the Queen. Photo / AP

William stood with his head bowed at the head of the coffin and Harry at the foot. Both princes, who are military veterans, were in uniform. Mourners continued to file past in silence.

“You could see that they were thinking hard 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 over the last few years.”

Harry, who served in Afghanistan as a British army officer, wore civilian clothes earlier in the week as the Queen’s coffin left Buckingham Palace because he is no longer a working member of the royal family.

He and his wife, Meghan, quit royal duties and moved to the United States in 2020. The king, however, requested that both William and Harry wear their military uniforms at the Westminster Hall vigil.

Before the vigil, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie issued a statement praising their “beloved grannie”.

“We, like many, thought you’d be here forever. And we all miss you terribly. You were our matriarch, our guide, our loving hand on our backs leading us through this world. You taught us so much and we will cherish those lessons and memories forever,” the sisters wrote.

The Queen’s four children – Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – held a similar vigil around the coffin on Saturday.

The silence in the hall was briefly broken Friday when a man lunged at the coffin. London police said a 28-year-old London man, Muhammad Khan, has been charged with behavior intended to “cause alarm, harassment or distress”. He will appear in court on Monday.

The lying-in-state continues until later today, when the Queen’s coffin will be moved to nearby Westminster Abbey for the funeral, the finale of 10 days of national mourning for Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

After the service at the abbey, the late Queen’s coffin will be transported through the historic heart of London on a horse-drawn gun carriage. It will then be taken in a hearse to Windsor, where the Queen will be interred alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.

The numbers behind the funeral

10 days of national mourning, hundreds of thousands of people packed onto the streets of London and millions around the world.

Those are just a few of the staggering array of numbers generated by the death of the 96-year-old monarch after her 70-year-reign.

Here are some figures that have swirled around London and the rest of the United Kingdom in the aftermath of the Queen’s death:

  • 2,000: Dignitaries and guests in Westminster Abbey for the state funeral, ranging from King Charles III and other royals to world leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden to members of the British public who helped battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 800: Guests at a committal service later in the day at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
  • 5949: Military personnel deployed throughout the meticulously choreographed operation that began with the Queen’s death on September 8 at her Balmoral Estate in the Scottish Highlands. That number comprises 4,416 from the army, 847 from the navy and 686 from the air force. In addition, around 175 armed forces personnel from Commonwealth nations have been involved.
  • 1650: At least that number of military personnel will be involved in the pomp-filled procession of the queen’s coffin from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch after her funeral. A further 1,000 will line the streets along the procession route When the coffin reaches Windsor, 410 military personnel will take part in the procession, 480 will line streets, 150 will be in a guard of honor and line steps and 130 more will fulfil other ceremonial duties.
  • More than 10,000: Police officers. 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 which saw up to 10,000 police officers on duty per day.
  • 36: Kilometres of barriers erected in central London alone to control crowds and keep key areas around the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace secure.
  • 1 million: The number of people London transport authorities expect to visit the capital on Monday. Around 250 extra rail services will run to move people in and out of the city.
  • 8: Kilometres of people lining up to file past the Queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall. The mammoth queue stretched back from the Houses of Parliament along the south bank of the River Thames to Southwark Park. The number of people in the queue is unlikely to be known until after the lying-in-state closes early on Monday local time.
  • 125: UK movie theaters that will open their doors to broadcast the funeral live.
    • 2,868: Diamonds, along with 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies, sparkle in the Imperial State Crown that rested on the Queen’s coffin as it lay in state.
  • 2: Minutes of silence at the end of the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
  • 1: Coffin. The silent eye in the days-long storm of pomp, pageantry and protection is a single, flag-draped oak coffin carrying the only monarch most Britons have ever known.

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