King Charles III and his heir Prince William on Saturday treated themselves to a surprise walkabout with Britons facing miles of queues to bow to the coffin of Elizabeth II ahead of her funeral on Monday.
The hours are now counted to gather in front of the remains in its closed coffin topped by the sumptuous imperial crown of the sovereign, very popular until her death at the age of 96 and after more than 70 years of rule.
With two days to go before the “funeral of the century”, for which foreign dignitaries have begun to flock, the waiting time in the line along the Thames to Westminster Hall in London, before seeing the coffin, was estimated at around 2 p.m. Saturday at midday.
Accompanied by Prince William, the new sovereign came for about twenty minutes to meet the crowd that has been marching continuously since Wednesday night. He exchanged a few words and shook hands, as he did several times during the tour that took him all week through the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom, from Belfast to Cardiff.
Staying longer, the popular heir to the throne thanked the audience, worrying about the state of their feet, to cries of “I love you William!”
Vigil of the grandchildren
The man who now bears the title of Prince of Wales will join the queen’s seven other grandchildren – including his brother Harry, with whom relations are notoriously difficult – on Saturday night for a wake for the late queen’s coffin.
The wake of the princes” on Friday by the four children of Elizabeth II Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward in uniform with their backs to the coffin moved the country and was on the front pages of many newspapers on Saturday. For the occasion, Andrew, deprived of most of his titles following accusations of sexual assault, was allowed to wear the uniform.
London is feverishly preparing for its first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
They are the largest event ever policed by London police, she said. Even bigger than the Olympics, which were held in London in 2012.
Rare incident in the ongoing tributes: a man was arrested Friday night after leaving the line and approaching the casket, authorities reported.
The public has until Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. local time to pay their last respects to the sovereign, the final farewell in contemplation, sometimes tears, for a sovereign who became a symbol of unity and stability during his reign, of an unprecedented length in the history of the United Kingdom.
A procession will then accompany the coffin to Westminster Abbey where the funeral will be held at 10 am.
Some 2,000 guests, including several hundred world leaders, royalty, as well as anonymous individuals decorated for their commitment to the community, will attend the ceremony.
The American president, Joe Biden, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the emperor of Japan, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, are expected to attend.
Diplomatic ballet for Charles
After a final procession, Elizabeth II will be buried in privacy Monday in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, west of London, next to her father King George VI and her husband Prince Philip.
Before the grand funeral at Westminster Abbey, Charles III began an intense diplomatic sequence at Buckingham Palace on Saturday.
The monarch will welcome in the afternoon the prime ministers of the 14 Commonwealth kingdoms, including Justin Trudeau (Canada), Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand) and Anthony Albanese (Australia).
The leaders of the organization, to which Elizabeth II was very attached but which is shaken by the republican temptations of some members, particularly in the Caribbean, should have the opportunity to pay their respects to Elizabeth II’s coffin, draped in the royal standard and adorned with the imperial crown. Ms. Ardern has already been there on Friday.
On Sunday afternoon, Charles III, who became king at the age of 73, will welcome the heads of state for a reception.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss, a Conservative who has been in power for about 10 days, is scheduled to meet with several leaders ahead of the funeral, including Joe Biden, Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin, and Justin Trudeau.