More than 500 dignitaries have been invited to the service at Westminster Abbey, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden, royalty from across Europe and heads of state from every corner of the globe. Chinese President Xi Jinping has been invited, but is expected to send a high-ranking official.
Mr. Trudeau will have an audience with King Charles III on Saturday at Buckingham Palace and will meet British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Sunday at Downing Street.
Stuart Cundy, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, said security planning for the funeral had been unprecedented.
“This will be, on Monday, the biggest single deployment of police officers in an operation that the Met Police has ever undertaken,” he said during a news conference on Friday. “As a single event, this is larger than the 2012 Olympics. It is larger than the Platinum Jubilee weekend, and the range of officers, police staff and all those supporting the operation is truly immense.”
Dep. Assistant Commissioner Cundy said about 20,000 officers have already been on duty for mourning ceremonies since the Queen died on Sept. 8. At least 2,000 extra officers will also be on hand in Windsor on Monday, where the Queen’s coffin will be taken for interment at the King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor Castle.
Hundreds of thousands of people have descended on central London to pay their respects to the Queen, who is lying in state in Westminster Hall until the morning of the funeral.
On Friday, the line stretched more than eight kilometres and the wait was estimated at 22 hours. At one point, officials tried to stop people from joining the queue because of overcrowding. They later relented, but warned that access might be restricted if the numbers swelled again.
Those who have lined up with the public so far include former soccer star David Beckham and outgoing Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Others who used a special line for VIPs included New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and former British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Charles and his siblings – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – stood at the Queen’s coffin on Friday evening in what is known as the Vigil of the Princes. The ceremony lasted about 15 minutes, and the Queen’s grandchildren, including Prince William and Prince Harry, will perform a similar vigil on Saturday.
Charles also met with faith leaders on Friday and received condolences from the Welsh legislature, or Senedd. “I take up my new duties with immense gratitude for the privilege of having been able to serve as Prince of Wales,” he told the Senedd. He added that the title has been passed to his son, William, “whose love for this corner of the Earth is made all the greater by the years he himself has spent here.”
The Prince of Wales title has been controversial. More than 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be scrapped because they see it as a symbol of English dominance over Wales.
Earlier in the afternoon, officials in London faced a backlash when they closed the accessible queue for people with mobility issues to enter Westminster Hall. “Those of us near the front of the queue were really fed up,” said Barry McKenzie, who uses a cane. “Having queued for four and a half hours, we were not happy to just go home. So we refused to leave.”
He said he and two women tried to persuade police officers that telling disabled people to go home and come back to queue again on Saturday “was rather poor.” However, the group eventually relented and received wrist bands giving them a place in line.
Others weren’t so lucky. A steady stream of people who arrived using wheelchairs and canes were turned away.
Despite the massive turnout, the crowds have been largely peaceful.
Dep. Assistant Commissioner Cundy said police made 34 arrests over the past week and none involved protesters. “I’m pleased to say that we’ve only had a relatively few number of arrests and crimes that have been reported,” he said.
On Friday morning, a man stabbed two officers in Leicester Square. The man was arrested and both officers were treated in hospital for injuries. Dep. Assistant Commissioner Cundy said the stabbings were not a suspected terrorist attack and were unrelated to the Queen.
Some royal diehards have been standing in lines for several days, trying to catch glimpses of the Queen’s coffin.
Fiona McIntosh, 67, waited 14 hours to see it in Westminster Hall on Friday afternoon. She also stood in line for hours on Wednesday to watch as it was taken to the hall in a procession from Buckingham Palace.
Ms. McIntosh said she had no regrets. She made “line buddies” who shared drinks and snacks, and sneaked off at times to buy coffee and tea at local cafes.
When she got next to the coffin on Friday, Ms. McIntosh was filled with emotion. “When you go into Westminster Hall, you can hear a pin drop,” she said. “You feel that you’re involved in something very big and very rare.”