US President Joe Biden has arrived in London, UK, ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.
He is expected to pay tribute at her coffin and will later join King Charles III and dozens of other world leaders for a reception ahead of Monday’s grand state funeral.
The queen’s body has been lying in state at the historic Westminster Hall since Wednesday, as people from all walks of life and from around the world have been filing past in a constant, emotional stream, many queueing overnight and some for up to 24 hours.
“Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world,” Biden said in a message following news of the queen’s death on September 8.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was seen curtsying to the coffin, are among the dignitaries who have paid their respects.
The United Kingdom has hosted a series of poignant, carefully-choreographed ceremonies in the 10 days that have followed the queen’s passing, reflecting the traditions and pageantry of the British royal family whose lineage stretches back almost 1,000 years.
On Saturday evening, the queen’s eight grandchildren, including Charles’s sons Princes William and Harry, held a solemn vigil at her coffin’s side, following a similar observance by her children the previous day.
Camilla, the queen consort, was the latest royal to pay tribute as she remembered her mother-in-law’s smile and “wonderful blue eyes”.
“She’s been part of our lives forever. I’m 75 now and I can’t remember anyone except the queen being there,” Camilla said in televised comments.
“It must have been so difficult for her being a solitary woman” in a world dominated by men, the queen consort said. “There weren’t women prime ministers or presidents. She was the only one so I think she carved her own role.”
The royals and the British government are now looking ahead to Monday’s funeral at Westminster Abbey, the site of coronations, weddings and burials of English, then British, kings and queens since William I in 1066.
London’s police force has described the ceremony as the biggest security operation it has ever undertaken.
Some 500 guests representing nearly 200 countries and territories will be attending – presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans among their number – and huge crowds are expected to throng the streets.
The UK has not held a state funeral on the scale planned for the queen since that for World War II leader Winston Churchill.
The government said big screens to watch the ceremony will be set up in Hyde Park in London and in cities across the country.
The funeral will be aired live by three broadcasters.
Such has been the desire to pay tribute to the popular monarch, the only one most Britons have known since her accession in 1952, that tens of thousands have waited patiently in a line stretching alongside the River Thames to spend a few brief seconds at the side of her coffin.
By the time her lying in state ends on Monday, officials estimate that as many as 750,000 people will have filed past.
“She wouldn’t believe all this, she really wouldn’t,” Prince William said as he joined his father King Charles to speak to mourners waiting in line. “It’s amazing.”
President Biden is expected to leave London immediately after the funeral for New York for the United Nations’ General Assembly.