Has anyone else been racking their brain for the last time there was a hugely important funeral or coronation, an event in which world leaders came out in droves? I remember that it was a somewhat big deal when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, but it wasn’t this huge international event. Ronald Reagan’s funeral was sort of a big deal, but that was mostly domestic too, as was George HW Bush’s funeral. Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral will likely be the biggest international “event” since her own father’s passing, or maybe JFK’s state funeral in 1963. That’s how far back we have to go to get a handle on it. There was Princess Diana’s funeral, but that wasn’t wall-to-wall with world leaders though. Anyway, all of that to say, I don’t think London is actually prepared for QEII’s funeral. They’re already culling the invite list and trying to convince everyone (even President Biden) to fly commercial and take the bus. But hey, at least Donald Trump isn’t invited.
President Biden caught the White House off guard on Friday when he told reporters he planned to travel to London for the Queen’s funeral. Past presidents have not attended the last two state funerals in Britain — for George VI in 1952, and Winston Churchill in 1965 — but Biden will be among the scores of heads of state and government to arrive in the capital before the service next Monday.
The leaders of most Commonwealth countries are expected to attend the funeral at Westminster Abbey, including Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand — a journey that will take almost 24 hours — and her Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian president, has also confirmed he will attend.
Other European royal families are expected to be present, including King Felipe of Spain, alongside his wife Queen Letizia. Emperor Naruhito of Japan has already confirmed his attendance. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, who has paid tribute to the Queen as “a legend”, will also be present.
International guests are said to have been asked to travel on commercial flights and forbidden to use helicopters or private cars to reach the funeral. They are to arrive together on a bus from a site in west London, Politico said, citing official documents. Westminster Abbey is expected to be so full that only one representative from each country can attend, although they can be joined by their signficant other.
Questions have been asked in the US over whether the former president, Donald Trump, would be invited but British sources have scotched the idea that he could accompany the US delegation and said there would not be space for Biden’s predecessors. The former US president Dwight Eisenhower attended Churchill’s funeral, but in a private capacity.
A reception for overseas leaders will take place at Buckingham Place on the eve of the service, but no bilateral meetings will be allowed because of the strain on security teams, according to the Foreign Office guidance.
The funeral will be an opportunity for the King and the prime minister to meet world leaders and, in Charles’s case, renew acquaintances.
Emmanuel Macron is likely to be among the other presidents, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who will be in London. It is not clear whether Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, will travel to the funeral. President Xi of China has not yet said he will attend. President Putin, who expressed his sadness at the Queen’s death, will not attend the service.
I imagine that even with Brexit’s long shadow, most European countries will either send their monarchs or their PMs/presidents or chancellors. At least Putin won’t be there, and President Zelensky probably won’t go either. No Donald Trump and probably no ex-presidents in the American delegation, it will just be Dark Brandon and Dr. Biden. My guess is that the British government will make some kind of special exemption for the Bidens to arrive in Air Force One and use “The Beast,” the armored vehicle which travels with the president. There’s no way Joe Biden is riding the bus with Macron and Emperor Naruhito, my God. Also: what do we make of Modi and the fact that he hasn’t confirmed his attendance? That’s very interesting to me. I hope Modi comes and jacks the Kohinoor while he’s there.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.