Prez Murmu in UK to attend state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

LONDON: President Droupadi Murmu, who is in London on a three-day visit to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral scheduled for Monday at Westminster Abbey, signed a book of condolence on Sunday on behalf of the Indian government.

President Murmu was accompanied by Acting High Commissioner Sujit Ghosh at Lancaster House in London, where heads of state are stopping by to sign a book of condolence in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in Scotland on September 8 at the age of 96.

Murmu also paid her respects at Westminster Hall on Sunday, where Britain’s longest-serving monarch lies in state until the morning of Monday’s state funeral.

The Indian head of state, who arrived on Saturday night, will join around 500 world leaders and royals from around the world in a gathering of around 2,000 people who are expected at the Abbey for a somber ceremony beginning at 11am local time and ends with a two-minute silence at an hour later.

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Ahead of Monday’s funeral service, the President is invited to a reception hosted by King Charles and Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace. All heads of state, heads of government and official guests from overseas are expected to attend a so-called “official state event”.

Zaki Cooper, who worked in the Queen’s royal household between 2009 and 2012 and has written extensively on the monarchy, believes the Queen had a “loving relationship with India” and was instrumental in the transition from Empire to Commonwealth.

“Recognizing the desire of many countries for self-determination, she embraced the Commonwealth,” Cooper said.

“The Commonwealth figured a lot in their messages and speeches. She was the leader of the organization and also its inspiration. Her legacy of developing friendly relations between nations will continue to inspire the Commonwealth as it ties with King Charles III. A new chapter is opening at the top,” he said.

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Representatives from the realms and the Commonwealth will be present at Monday’s memorial service.

Hours before the ceremony, the Queen’s Lying-in-State will be closed to members of the public queue for the final few days, with wait times of around 24 hours expected at weekends as the queue stretches around 10km.

The abbey gates will open at 8am local time on Monday for the visiting dignitaries and guests invited to the funeral, including hundreds of people honored at the Queen’s birthday honors earlier this year, many honored by the late monarch for theirs exceptional contributions to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and volunteering in their local communities.

According to plans in place for the day, all heads of state and representatives of foreign governments, including foreign royal families, are expected to gather at a central location and travel to the abbey under “collective arrangements”.

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The state funeral service will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster, with Prime Minister Liz Truss and Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland reading “lessons”.

The Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Moderator of the Free Churches will offer prayers and the homily will be delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will also present the Commendation.

The conclusion of the first state funeral in the UK in 57 years, last held at the Abbey for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, will be followed by a service and private burial ceremony at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. The late monarch is buried in the chapel at Windsor Castle.

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