Berliner TageBlatt - UK vows 'fitting tribute' to queen as tens of thousands file past coffin

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UK vows 'fitting tribute' to queen as tens of thousands file past coffin
UK vows 'fitting tribute' to queen as tens of thousands file past coffin / Foto: © AFP

UK vows 'fitting tribute' to queen as tens of thousands file past coffin

British officials on Thursday pledged "a fitting tribute" to Queen Elizabeth II at her funeral next week, as they revealed the historic day will culminate in her interment at a private ceremony at Windsor Castle.

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The country's longest-serving monarch, who died a week ago aged 96 after 70 years on the throne, will be honoured with a state funeral on Monday morning at Westminster Abbey.

The first to be staged in the UK in nearly six decades, it is set to draw leaders and royalty from around the world and will follow four days of her coffin lying in state at neighbouring Westminster Hall.

Mourners -- some waiting through the night -- have been queueing to pay their last respects to the much-loved monarch, as the first full day of lying in state attracted tens of thousands of people.

"The Queen held a unique and timeless position in all our lives," funeral organiser Edward Fitzalan-Howard, known as the Earl Marshal, told reporters at a briefing.

"It is our aim and belief that... the next few days will unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths, whilst fulfilling Her Majesty and her family's wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign."

The 65-year-old, who also holds the Duke of Norfolk title, has spent the last two decades preparing for the queen's funeral -- the biggest Britain will have hosted since former prime minister Winston Churchill's in 1965.

"The respect, admiration and affection in which the queen was held make our task both humbling and daunting -- an honour and a great responsibility," Fitzalan-Howard added.

- 'Peaceful' -

More than 2,000 guests are expected to pack the historic abbey in central London at 1000 GMT Monday for a church service dedicated to her life and record-breaking reign.

US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australia's leader Anthony Albanese and France's Emmanuel Macron have all confirmed their attendance at the funeral, as have Japan's Emperor Naruhito and numerous other royals.

After the service, the coffin will be transferred by royal hearse to her Windsor Castle home west of London before a committal service at St George's Chapel at 1500 GMT.

In the meantime, attention remains focused on the growing line of mourners waiting to enter the vast hall where the queen's coffin, mounted on a platform, has been lying since late Wednesday afternoon.

That followed a ceremonial procession through the packed streets of central London from Buckingham Palace.

Draped in the Royal Standard flag, the casket is adorned with the Imperial State Crown, her ceremonial Orb and Sceptre, while tall, flickering candles stand at each corner.

"It's very peaceful," Londoner Rupa Jones, 43, told AFP after emerging from the cavernous space, the oldest part of Britain's centuries-old parliament, calling the experience "overwhelming".

She and her aunt had queued for nearly seven hours through the night for their fleeting moment in front of the coffin.

The sombre atmosphere inside is completed with guards in ceremonial uniform posted around the podium in a constant vigil.

One fainted overnight, a reminder of the toll standing vigil can take. Defence secretary Ben Wallace, as a member of the Royal Company of Archers, took a turn on guard.

All Britain's national newspapers carried poignant pictures of the historic scene on their covers.

"Nation's turn to say farewell," the Daily Telegraph headlined on its front page.

Mourners marked their moment in front of the coffin in various ways, from bows or curtsies to the sign of the cross or by simply removing their hats.

Some wiped away tears with tissues. Others brought infants in pushchairs. Old soldiers stopped and gave one last salute to their former commander-in-chief.

- 'Real Charles fan' -

By early afternoon Thursday, the queue had grown to more than four miles (6.4 kilometres) along the south bank of the Thames river, with people set to wait through the day to see the late sovereign.

Organisers have prepared up to 10 miles of queueing infrastructure, with expectations hundreds of thousands will participate, in particular over the weekend.

Musician Jacqui Smith, among those in line overnight, was sad but enthusiastic about the reign of the new king.

"I've been waiting for it for a long time," she told AFP from Lambeth Bridge, within sight of Westminster Hall. "I love the queen, but I'm a real Charles fan."

Senior royals also continued visits to places around the country Thursday.

William and wife Kate travelled to Sandringham, the family's private winter retreat in eastern England to view the floral tributes left by members of the public at the Norwich Gates.

Charles, 73, was crowned Prince of Wales by his mother in 1958, and on his first full day as monarch Friday he bestowed the title on his eldest son.

The historic title has been given to the heir apparent since the start of the 14th century.

Thursday's visit was the first official engagement conducted by the new Prince and Princess of Wales.

Meanwhile Elizabeth's youngest son Prince Edward, 58, and his wife Sophie, visited Manchester in northwest England to view the civic book of condolence at the city's central library.

F.Müller--BTB