LONDON — It is a security planner’s worst nightmare: Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday is expected to attract hundreds of world leaders, among them presidents, prime ministers and fellow monarchs, each with their own security details and demands. Getting all of the VIPs to and from London’s Westminster Abbey is going to be a tricky feat.
President Biden and first lady Jill Biden have accepted invitations to the event, according to the White House, for a historic day of pomp and ceremony as the United Kingdom marks the passing of its longest-reigning monarch.
“The invite was for the president and the first lady only,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, as speculation swirled around whether former U.S. presidents have been invited. “I would refer you to the United Kingdom, their government, on that protocol generally.”
Starting with Harry S. Truman in 1951, Elizabeth, who died at age 96, met with all U.S. presidents during her lifetime except Lyndon B. Johnson — 13 in total. She met with Biden last year.
Her meticulously choreographed state funeral will start at 11 a.m. local time on Monday, according to Buckingham Palace, with the Royal Navy transporting her coffin in a procession from Westminster Hall, where she will be lying in state, to nearby Westminster Abbey. That is where a young Elizabeth got married in 1947 and where her coronation was held in 1953, a year after she ascended the throne.
Foreign dignitaries have been urged to arrive a day early and bring slimmed-down teams with them. They have also been encouraged to fly commercial, where possible, to avoid congestion at London’s private airfields, and they have been asked not to use helicopters to get around, according to British media, citing protocol guidance from Britain’s Foreign Office. The global guests are also expected to attend a reception hosted by the British government right after the funeral.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace told The Washington Post on Wednesday it “would not comment on security matters.” The prime minister’s office declined to comment on the leaked guidance documents for foreign invitees and referred The Post to the U.S. government for any comment on Biden’s travel and security operations, while acknowledging that “arrangements for different leaders will vary.”
In terms of logistics, the approximately 500 guests expected to attend have also been asked to help avoid clogging London’s roads by taking shared buses to the historic Westminster Abbey, according to the documents first reported by Politico. However, due to security concerns, an exception may be made for Biden to arrive in his armored presidential limousine, known as “the Beast” — which he also used when attending the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last year.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, who rarely leaves his country, will also be given dispensation for his own vehicle, as will President Isaac Herzog of Israel, according to unconfirmed media reports.
The White House told The Post it could not comment on details about the president’s security.
The U.S. presidential limousine is armored, with thicker wheels, a heavy-duty chassis, expanded space for passengers, secure encrypted communications technology and ornate interiors that can include foldout desks.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed her attendance and told local media, “you’ll see fairly even distribution across realm countries,” referring to the number of spots available for guests from Commonwealth and other nations. Other leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, are expected to attend.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping sent a message of condolence to King Charles III last week, according to China’s Foreign Ministry, but it is unclear whether he will attend the funeral. Countries with which the United Kingdom has strained diplomatic relations, such as Myanmar and Belarus, may be snubbed. Last week, the Kremlin dismissed the idea of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attendance. “We are not considering such an option,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state media.
The funeral also clashes with the start of another global event, the U.N. General Assembly in New York, due to start this week and last until Sept. 27. Biden “will attend” the assembly, press secretary Jean-Pierre said Monday. “They’re working out the details on that. Once we have more, we’ll be happy to share it.”
Queen Elizabeth II
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- Britons will also need to swiftly adjust to seeing his face on these staples of daily life, including postage stamps and the national anthem.
- Charles ascended the throne the moment his mother passed away. Here’s a look at the next 10 royals who are next in line to the throne.
Meanwhile, Britain is in the midst of a period of official national mourning declared by the government shortly after the queen’s death on Thursday. It will end Monday evening after the funeral, which is also a national holiday, with many people off work and students out of school.
Millions are expected to flock to London to catch a glimpse of the historic farewell to the queen. Long lines and airport-style security are expected for those who wish to pay their final respects to their monarch as she lies in state.
Charles is currently touring all four corners of the United Kingdom ahead of the funeral, alongside Camilla, Queen Consort.
The state funeral of Elizabeth’s mother took place at Westminster Abbey in 2002, as did that of Princess Diana in 1997. The last monarch to have a state funeral there was King George II in 1760.
After the funeral in London, Elizabeth will make her final journey to Windsor Castle, where she will be buried at St. George’s Chapel close to her husband, Prince Philip, and father, King George VI.