French President Macron to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

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French President Emmanuel Macron will attend the state funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in London, Macron said on Thursday on his Twitter account.

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth, who died last week after 70 years on the throne, will be held on Monday.

On Wednesday, Britain is invited a representative from North Korea to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, but Afghanistan, Syria and Venezuela will not be given an invite, a foreign office source said.

The invitation for communist North Korea would be at an ambassadorial level, the source said. This means that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will not attend. Pyongyang has an embassy in West London.

Syria and Venezuela would not be invited because Britain does not currently have diplomatic relations with those states. Afghanistan was not invited due to the current political situation, the source said.

They join Russia, Myanmar and Belarus in not being asked to attend.

Foreign dignitaries who do come to Britain will also be invited to visit the Queen’s Lying in State inside parliament’s Westminster Hall ahead of the funeral.

Funeral invitations are being sent to all holders of Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, and the George Cross, which can also be held by civilians.

In total, foreign office officials have handwritten around 1 000 invitations for Monday’s funeral and reception with King Charles on Sunday. The deadline to accept funeral invitations passes tomorrow, after which officials will finalise the seating plan.

Solemn procession

King Charles, his sons Princes William and Harry and other senior royals joined a solemn procession taking Queen Elizabeth’s coffin as the late monarch made her final journey from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.

Huge crowds gathered in central London to witness the queen being taken from the palace to parliament as artillery guns fired salutes and Big Ben tolled, the latest in a series of poignant ceremonies as the nation mourns the queen who died last week aged 96 after seven decades on the throne.

Lying on a gun carriage, covered by the Royal Standard flag and with the Imperial State Crown placed on a cushion on top alongside a wreath of flowers, the coffin bearing Elizabeth’s body was taken in a slow, sombre procession from her London home to Westminster Hall. There it will lie in state for four days.

Walking directly behind were Charles and his siblings, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

In a group that followed were Charles’s sons Princes William and Harry, a doleful scene reminiscent of when, as boys 25 years ago, they followed the casket of their mother Princess Diana when it was taken on a similar procession through central London.

It was also a symbolic show of unity as William, 40, now the Prince of Wales, and Harry, 37, the Duke of Sussex, are said to be barely on speaking terms after a bitter falling out in the last couple of years.

“It was very moving, seeing the family. It was a powerful show of unity,” said Jenny Frame, 54, who waited for more than four hours to see the procession.

Paul Wiltshire, 65, commented: “I don’t think we’ll see anything like that again ever, or a queen like that again. An end of an era.”

 Hushed silence

A military band playing funeral marches and soldiers in ceremonial scarlet uniforms, some with shiny silver breastplates and helmets, accompanied the gun carriage pulled by the King’s Troop, Royal Horse Artillery, as it moved slowly through central London, where many roads were closed to traffic.

Guns fired every minute at Hyde Park, while parliament’s famous Big Ben bell also rang at 60-second intervals. The crowds stood in a hushed silence as they watched the procession but then broke into spontaneous applause when it passed. Some threw flowers.

Other senior royals including Charles’ wife Camilla, now the Queen Consort, Kate, William’s wife and now Princess of Wales, and Harry’s wife, Meghan, travelled by car.

When the procession reached Westminster Hall, a medieval building with origins dating back to 1097 and the oldest part of the Palace of Westminster that houses the British parliament, the coffin was carried inside by soldiers from the Grenadier Guards and placed on a catafalque surrounded by candles.

A short service followed, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, as senior politicians watched on. The royals quietly departed, with Harry and Meghan holding hands.

A constant vigil will be held by soldiers in full ceremonial uniforms at the four corners of the catafalque.

Just after 5 p.m. the public began to file past the coffin, some in tears, many bowing their heads. There will be a constant stream of mourners, 24-hours a day, during the four days of lying in state that lasts until the morning of the funeral on September 19.

“We’ve lost someone special,” said Kenneth Taylor, 72, who stayed overnight in a tent to be one of the first in the queue. He said a lump had come to his throat as he viewed the queen lying in state. “Her service to this country was really steadfast and unswerving.”

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Elizabeth had three keys roles in her life: head of the family, head of the nation and head of state. Wednesday marked the moment the coffin passed from the family to the state.