By Anna MALPAS
Hundreds of foreign royals and leaders are expected to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London on Monday — one of the biggest diplomatic gatherings in decades.
Westminster Abbey has space for around 2,000 people, and around 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries and their partners are expected, according to BBC and Sky News reports.
Also attending Britain’s first state funeral for six decades will be the queen’s family members, courtiers, public figures and UK politicians.
– World royalty –
A host of royals from Europe and further afield have confirmed their attendance at the funeral for Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will attend — their first overseas trip since assuming the throne in 2019. The visit marks a departure from Japanese tradition, which rarely sees the emperor attend funerals.
Europe’s royal families are closely related after centuries of mingling their bloodlines, so it will be no surprise to see several monarchs from the continent in the congregation.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Crown Princess Beatrix, Philippe King of the Belgians, King Harald V of Norway and Prince Albert II of Monaco will all attend.
Denmark’s Queen Margrethe, who scrapped a series of events marking her 50th jubilee following the death of her third cousin, Queen Elizabeth, is also coming.
Spain’s King Felipe VI will be there too with his wife Letizia. So too will his father, former king Juan Carlos I, who abdicated in disgrace in 2014 and now lives in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler has been invited. He was set to hold talks with British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Sunday evening, despite international outrage at the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by Saudi agents.
– Global leaders –
Downing Street has not confirmed a UK media report that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife, Olena, will attend.
US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden head the diplomatic guest list and flew into Britain late on Saturday.
Unlike some other leaders who have been asked to come in coaches arranged by the British government, Biden has reportedly been given permission to use his armoured presidential limousine, known as The Beast.
French President Emmanuel Macron will attend, the Elysee Palace said, to show the “unbreakable” bond with Britain and pay respects to the “eternal queen”.
He is also among the leaders allowed to use their own transport, British officials said.
Authoritarian leaders Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are also coming.
China has announced it will send its vice-president, Wang Qishan, at the UK government’s invitation.
Despite Britain’s Brexit divorce from the European Union, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council head Charles Michel will go as well.
Other heads of state at the funeral will include presidents Sergio Mattarella of Italy, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Isaac Herzog of Israel and Yoon Suk-yeol of Korea.
In a symbolic move to pay tribute to the queen, whose 2011 state visit to Ireland helped heal decades of tensions over British rule in Northern Ireland, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin will be present.
– Commonwealth countries –
Numerous leaders will come from countries that still counted Elizabeth II as their monarch and from members of the 56-nation Commonwealth.
They include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Commonwealth leaders attending include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
– Not invited –
Due to strained ties, the UK has opted to invite ambassadors, not heads of state, from several countries — Iran, Nicaragua and North Korea.
Russia and Belarus are among a small group of nations excluded altogether following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin — under a travel ban to the UK because of sanctions — had already said he would not attend.
But not inviting any Russian representative to the queen’s funeral was “particularly blasphemous towards Elizabeth II’s memory” and “deeply immoral”, the foreign ministry spokeswoman in Moscow said on Thursday.
Russia and Belarus have embassies in London and their presidents sent King Charles III messages of condolences.
Other countries with no invitations are Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela.
Ties between Myanmar and former colonial ruler Britain have soured since a coup last year.