World leaders pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth one day before her funeral

·4 min read

President Biden got a head start Sunday in honoring Queen Elizabeth II, visiting her coffin at London’s Westminster Hall to pay his respects ahead of Monday’s funeral.

The President, who was joined by First Lady Jill Biden, did the sign of the cross and signed a book of condolences during his visit, before going to a reception at nearby Buckingham Palace that was led by King Charles III.

Biden on Sunday described the queen as “honorable” and praised her for being “all about service” during his time at Westminster Hall, where the coffin has laid in state since Wednesday.

The first lady also signed a book for spouses and ambassadors during their visit.

“Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people,” Jill Biden wrote. “She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”

Thousands of people have viewed the queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall since its arrival last Wednesday, including some who’ve waited as long as 24 hours for the chance to bid farewell to the longtime British monarch.

Queen Elizabeth died Sept. 8 at age 96, ending a record-setting 70-year reign that began in 1952, when she was just 25 years old.

Biden is one of about 2,000 people who will attend the queen’s funeral Monday at the centuries-old Westminster Abbey church in London, with about 500 royals and other world leaders such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau, France’s Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern also expected to be there.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time, 6 a.m. EDT.

The events in London follow a coffin procession through Edinburgh last Monday that King Charles and his three siblings — Prince Edward, Prince Andrew and Princess Anne — each walked in. The coffin laid in state at Scotland’s St. Giles’ Cathedral for 24 hours before being taken to London.

Queen Elizabeth’s four children participated as well in Wednesday’s procession through London, which Prince William and Prince Harry also walked in.

Prince Andrew, who returned his military affiliations earlier this year amid scrutiny of his connection to late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, released his first statement Sunday since his mother’s death.

“Dear Mummy, Mother, Your Majesty, three in one. Your Majesty, it has been an honor and privilege to serve you. Mother — of the nation, your devotion and personal service to our nation is unique and singular; your people show their love and respect in so many different ways and I know you are looking on honoring their respect,” Andrew, 62, said, according to People.

“Mummy, your love for a son, your compassion, your are, your confidence I will treasure forever. I have found your knowledge and wisdom invite, with no boundary or containment. I will miss your insights, advice and humuor. As our book of experiences closes, another opens, and I will forever hold you close to my heart with my deepest love and gratitude, and I will tread gladly into the next with you as my guide.”

The United Kingdom will observe a two-minute moment of silence during Monday’s funeral as a tribute to the queen that’s expected to take place at 11:55 a.m. local time.

Following the funeral, King Charles and others will take part in a coffin procession from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch in London.

A smaller service with about 800 people will then be held at St. George’s Chapel near Windsor Castle, where the queen’s coffin will be lowered into the Royal Vault. Queen Elizabeth will be laid to rest next her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year at age 99.

The funeral will air live in more than 200 countries and territories. Major U.S. news networks including NBC and ABC will broadcast live funeral coverage beginning at 5:30 a.m. EDT.

Screens sets up in Hyde Park near Buckingham Palace will also broadcast the service, as will about 125 cinemas across the United Kingdom.

Charles, 73, and his siblings stood vigil alongside their mother’s coffin on Friday, while William and Harry attended a vigil with the queen’s other grandchildren Saturday.

Others to pay homage since the queen’s death include Charles’ wife, Camilla, the queen consort, who said in a video, “I will always remember her smile. That smile is unforgettable.”

Ardern, meanwhile, described representing New Zealand at the funeral as an honor.

“The thing that I will take away from this period is just the beauty of the public’s response, the kindness that you see from members of the public, the patience, the camaraderie,” Ardern told the BBC. “That has been, for me, the most moving tribute of all, has been the public response of the British people.”

Prince Harry said last week that he cherishes the moments he spent with his grandmother, including when the queen met his wife, Meghan Markle, and their two children. Harry and Meghan named their daughter Lilibet after the queen’s childhood nickname.

“Thank you for your commitment to service,” Harry said in a statement. “Thank you for your sound advice. Thank you for your infectious smile. We, too, smile knowing that you and grandpa are reunited now, and both together in peace.”

With News Wire Services