Queen Elizabeth’s death brings hundreds of world dignitaries to London
By Guillermo Ximenis
London, Sep 18 (EFE).- The death of Queen Elizabeth II has brought hundreds of heads of states and other international dignitaries to London to attend a reception on Sunday offered by the new British monarch, King Charles III, before the state funeral ceremony on Monday at Westminster Abbey.
The king and queen of Spain, Felipe VI and Letizia, were among the roughly 500 specially invited guests at Buckingham Palace, along with leaders such as US President Joe Biden, Japanese Emperor and Empress Naruhito and Masako, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and assorted sovereigns from European royal houses.
The king and queen emeritus of Spain, Juan Carlos I and Sofia, also attended the reception, arriving together at the palace a little more than half an hour before the arrival of Felipe and Letizia.
The British Foreign Office, which is coordinating Elizabeth’s funeral, provided buses to transport the majority of the dignitaries to the main scheduled activities and ceremonies on the weekend and in the coming days to facilitate the movement of so many high-level officials and leaders around within the British capital.
Biden, along with French President Emmanuel Macron, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and other leaders, however, received British government approval to circulate in their own vehicles.
Many of the leaders invited to the Monday funeral ceremony on Sunday paid their respects before the coffin of Elizabeth – who died on Sept. 8 at age 96 after reigning for seven decades – which is reposing in a funeral chapel at Westminster Hall, where thousands of Britons and others will continue filing in to view it until early Monday morning.
Felipe VI and Letizia visited the chapel on Sunday afternoon accompanied by Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares and Spain’s ambassador to London, Jose Pascual Marco.
The visit to the chapel by the Spanish monarchs, who arrived in the British capital on board a Spanish military Falcon jet, coincided with that of the monarchs of Sweden and the speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, Spanish diplomatic sources reported.
Shortly thereafter, Biden and first lady Jill Biden, observed several minutes of silence in front of the queen’s casket, and Reuters reported that Biden wrote in the book of condolence: “To all the people of England, all the people in (the) United Kingdom, our hearts go out to you. You were fortunate to have had her for 70 years, we all were. The world’s better for her.”
Foreign Office officials handwrote about 1,000 invitations to world leaders and other top international representatives of practically all the world’s countries in what proved to be a huge diplomatic operation.
Only a few countries were left off the list of invitees, namely Syria and Venezuela, with which London has no diplomatic relations; Russia and Belarus, due to their involvement in the invasion of Ukraine; and Afghanistan and Myanmar, given the complicated political situations in those two nations.
Countries like China, with which the UK maintains tense relations, are being represented at the funeral activities for Elizabeth with London inviting President Xi Jinping, and although the rumor was that he might actually attend, in the end it was Vice President Wang Qishan who traveled to the British capital.
Among the invited guests at the state reception and funeral ceremony in Westminster Abbey, was also Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Despite the huge congregation of world leaders in London, the British government has insisted in recent days that the aim of the gathering is to pay tribute to the late monarch and to keep political meetings and messages to a minimum.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who took office two days before Elizabeth’s unanticipated death, had been planning to hold her first bilateral meeting with Biden at No. 10 Downing Street on Sunday.
Washington and London announced one day earlier, however, the decision to postpone that meeting until Wednesday, when both officials will meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
However, Truss did speak on the weekend with the heads of governments of some of the main countries within the British Commonwealth, including Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Australia’s Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, as well as with Irish Prime Minister (or Taoiseach) Micheal Martin the Polish President Andrzej Duda.