WORLD leaders including King Letsie III and top foreign dignitaries have flocked to Buckingham Palace to pay their respects to King Charles ahead of the Queen's funeral on Monday - in what is being described by some as the 'reception of the century'.
Sept. 19, 2022
8 min read
Charles hosts 'reception of the century' at Buckingham Palace
King Charles III of the United Kingdom
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During one of the largest gatherings of world leaders seen in recent years the newly crowned Monarch and his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, greeted the likes of US President Joe Biden and wife Jill as well as President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, for a glittering but sombre event.
Such a reception involving world leaders and British royals has not seen since the death of Queen Elizabeth II's father George VI in 1952, more than 70 years ago.
More recently, but not on such a grand scale, the now late Queen attended the G7 in Cornwall where she met and took part in pictures with the G7 leaders.
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins was seen being dropped off from a coach along with the former King and Queen Consort of Spain, Juan Carlos and Sofia and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, before the British royal couple met hundreds of dignitaries, including New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau.
The Prince and Princess of Wales and other working members of the royal family including the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester joined Charles and the Queen Consort in mingling with guests including Japan's Emperor Naruhito and the Kings and Queens from Holland, Norway and Sweden.
Many dignitaries had already been viewing the Queen's coffin in the ancient heart of Parliament after being given a VIP timeslot as ordinary mourners who have queued through the night pay their respects with leaders of the free world.
The Prime Minister Liz Truss and Government ministers including Jacob Rees-Mogg and James Cleverly were also spotted heading towards tonight’s glittering state reception which took place in the picture gallery and state apartments and featured drinks and canapes.
Many have also compared the state funeral of the Queen, which will see 1,000s world leaders attend, to Nelson Mandela's memorial service in 2013 in South Africa which had to take place in a stadium due to the huge amount of world mourners.
King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan also arrived in their own vehicle at the Grand Entrance and were followed by their son, Hussein, Crown Prince of Jordan, who also took his own vehicle.
Moments later, the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, arrived.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also joined the guests, and the Crown Prince of Kuwait, Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, soon followed.
The Sultan of Oman was also seen arriving at the palace, while Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum followed shortly afterwards.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark were among those arriving on coaches.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and president of the European Council Charles Michel arrived on coaches with several leaders of Commonwealth nations at the Grand Entrance.
They were joined by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who walked into the palace followed by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who smiled briefly at journalists.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was also among guests at the event which took place across the picture gallery, the white drawing room, the blue drawing room and the music room.
The Prince and Princess of Wales and other working members of the royal family including the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester joined Charles and the Queen Consort in mingling with guests.
Guests were asked to wear lounge suits and morning dress rather than ball gowns and white tie as would be expected at a usual state event at the King's London home. But some were allowed to opt for traditional clothing.
And reports suggest that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were 'uninvited' to a state reception for world leaders and foreign royals this evening.
It is thought Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle received an invitation to the event, hosted by King Charles and the Queen Consort, earlier in the week.
But the couple are now unlikely to attend after officials at Buckingham Palace insisted the reception was for working royals only, it is understood.
The confusion over Harry and Meghan's invitation points to issues with communication between the Californian-based couple and the Royal Family, according to the Daily Telegraph. It follows an apparent U-turn over Harry's right to wear military uniform despite being a non-working royal.
The Palace is understood to have intervened to allow Harry to wear his regalia to a 15-minute vigil at Westminster Hall yesterday. Harry had previously said he would wear a morning suit to all the funeral events.
The funeral of the only monarch most Britons have known involves the biggest security operation London has ever seen.
Mayor Sadiq Khan says tomorrow's state funeral is an 'unprecedented' security challenge, with hundreds of thousands of people packing central London and a funeral guest list of 500 emperors, kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers and other leaders from around the world.
'It's been decades since this many world leaders were in one place,' Mr Khan said. 'This is unprecedented ... in relation to the various things that we're juggling.'
'There could be bad people wanting to cause damage to individuals or to some of our world leaders,' he told The Associated Press. 'So we are working incredibly hard - the police, the security services and many, many others - to make sure this state funeral is as successful as it can be.'
Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the 'hugely complex' policing operation is the biggest in the London force's history, surpassing the London 2012 Olympics.
'Our response here in London will be proportionate, it will be balanced, and officers will only be taking action where it is absolutely necessary,' he said.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said the goal was to keep the event safe, 'and try to do it in as unobtrusive a way as possible, because this is obviously a solemn occasion.'
More than 10,000 police officers will be on duty Monday, with London officers supplemented by reinforcements from all of Britain's 43 police forces. Hundreds of volunteer marshals and members of the armed forces will also act as stewards along the processional route.
They are just the most visible part of a security operation that is being run from a high-tech control center near Lambeth Bridge, not far from Parliament.
Street drains and garbage bins are being searched and sealed. Tomorrow there will be police spotters on rooftops, sniffer dogs on the streets, marine officers on the River Thames and mounted police on horseback.
Flying drones over Central London has been temporarily banned, and Heathrow Airport is grounding scores of flights so that aircraft noise does not disturb the funeral service.
Authorities face the challenge of keeping 500 world leaders safe, without ruffling too many diplomatic feathers. Presidents, prime ministers and royalty will gather offsite before being taken by bus to the abbey - though an exception is being made for Mr Biden, who is expected to arrive in his armored limousine, known as The Beast.
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Pallbeares carry the Queen's coffin
Another challenge is the sheer size of the crowds expected to gather around Westminster Abbey and along the route the coffin will travel after the funeral, past Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park. From there it will be taken by hearse about 20 miles to Windsor, where another 2 000 police officers will be on duty.
The Queen is due to be interred in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle alongside her husband Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99.
The President of Armenia copped flak earlier today for disrespecting the Queen as he took photos and chatted to aides during a visit to see her lying-in-state in Westminster Hall.
Vahagn Khachaturyan, an ally of warmongering Russian president Vladimir Putin, was seen bowing at the late monarch's coffin as one of his lackies snapped some pictures on his mobile phone.
Bystanders meanwhile claimed the Armenian leader was loudly rabbiting on to his entourage as they trundled along the VIP walkway and down to the floor where Queen Elizabeth II's coffin is lying.
His actions flew in the face of strict rules in the 1,000-year-old chamber which forbid the taking of photos or videos and call for quiet, respectful behaviour.
Khachaturyan was seen in June of this year sharing a warm embrace with Putin at a Russian economic conference even as war raged across the border in Ukraine.
One attendee at Westminster Hall told The Sun: 'There were hundreds of people in that hall - no one was speaking. Only him. Yap, yap, yap, yap. He clearly planned to have his photo taken.
'He and his aide hold back as the group in front passes the coffin... He knows the rules and would have been told before he went in.'
Another angry source said: 'Everyone has managed to follow those rules to the very letter - apart from this one individual.'
It is unclear whether Khachaturyan, who remains a close ally of the Kremlin despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, will join other world leaders at the Queen's funeral tomorrow.
The VIP time slots given to visiting heads of state and foreign dignitaries comes as hundreds of thousands of people queue spend hour after hour lining up to see Her Majesty.
Since Wednesday many had patiently stood in line as they wait to pay their respects, with the queue snaking its way through central London for more than four miles past numerous landmarks including the Tate Modern, the London Eye and Tower Bridge.
Later today officials will stop more people from joining the queue as they look to clear the line before the Queen's coffin is moved in tomorrow's funeral procession to Westminster Abbey, where her funeral is being held tomorrow morning.
Westminster Hall will close at 8.30am, with the doors of Westminster Abbey opening at 8am. The funeral service will begin at 11am.
The service, which will be shown live on the BBC and ITV, as well as 150 cinemas in the UK, is expected to be seen by as many as 4.1billion people worldwide.
After the service at Westminster Abbey the Queen's coffin will be moved to Windsor where there will be a committal service tomorrow evening. - Aljazeera
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