By Patricia Rodriguez
London, Sep 18 (EFE).- London on Sunday is finalizing preparations for the state funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II predicted to be one of the most heavily attended and viewed events in the United Kingdom in recent decades.
With numerous streets blocked to the public in downtown London and a huge and visible police presence on almost every corner, the British capital is attending to the final details for the historic funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
On the eve of the ceremony, people were still flocking from different points around the British Isles to wait patiently to pay their respects before the coffin of the late queen, with the somber atmosphere one of “respect and sociability,” as one of these people described it to EFE.
Since last Wednesday, the funeral chapel inside Westminster has been open to the public and hundreds of thousands of people have waited for hours in line, often spending the night outdoors there, to pay their respects by bowing their heads or making the sign of the cross before the casket.
According to the program prepared by Buckingham palace, the public will be allowed to approach the coffin until 5:30 am on Monday morning.
Among the sea of people, retired Briton Caroline Wheel told EFE on Sunday that she came to London from Herne Bay, England, on Friday to pay her respects “for the last time” to her monarch, adding that she was expecting a very “solemn and calm” funeral ceremony on Monday.
Saying that it has gotten cold at night and she didn’t bring a tent, just a sleeping bag, a warm blanket, cap, scarf and gloves, she said that she was doing pretty well now but had slept very little on Friday night.
Another British citizen, Jackie, said that she felt that it was her “duty” to come and “thank the royal family.”
Meanwhile, walking through central London one can see that great effort has been put into setting up unbreachable police barriers outside Westminster to channel the crowds, with areas filled with tents for the media and others closed to the public near the abbey itself and beside Buckingham Palace.
The schedule calls for on this last day during which the queen lies in state at Westminster, Big Ben – the largest bell in the so-called Elizabeth Tower of the British Parliament at Westminster Palace – was scheduled to toll at 7 pm to mark the start of what had been designated a National Moment of Reflection, which began with a minute of silence. Big Ben was to then sound again at 7:01 pm to mark the end of the event.
It was expected that the entire United Kingdom would go silent at the same moment to recall the queen and citizens had been encouraged to mark the moment privately in their homes or wherever they may be, including with community events or vigils.
Big Ben will also toll once again on Monday morning at intervals of one minute while the funeral procession is under way.
Queen Consort Camilla, the wife of King Charles III, on Sunday offered a tribute televised on the BBC to honor the late monarch recalling the queen’s “wonderful blue eyes” and saying that she will always remember Elizabeth’s “unforgettable … smile.”
On Monday, expectations are that starting at 5 am many areas will be blocked to traffic in downtown London, according to a statement issued by the Metropolitan Police, advising the public that spontaneous and previously unannounced restrictions on pedestrian movement may be imposed by law enforcement authorities “for security reasons.”
At 8 am, the doors of Westminster Abbey will be opened to allow the roughly 2,000 invited guests attending the funeral service to enter, although the service will not begin until 11 am. World leaders such as US President Joe Biden, along with representatives of monarchies from all over the globe – such as King Felipe VI and Queen Leticia of Spain – will be on hand at the ceremony.
The dean of Westminster, David Hoyle, will preside at the funeral, while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England, will deliver a sermon and British Prime Minister Liz Truss will read a religious text.
At 11:55 am, a trumpet blast will mark the start of two minutes of silence that will be respected all across the UK. The national hymn and a mourning tribute performed by Elizabeth’s official bagpiper will bring the funeral service to a close at midday.
At 1 pm, the queen’s coffin will be transferred to a hearse for her final journey to Windsor Castle, where she will be interred in the Chapel of St. George.
Some 125 movie theaters will show the event live, along with television channels Sky News, ITV and the BBC for people who want to view the funeral ceremony from their homes.