Queen Elizabeth's funeral: 500 foreign dignitaries including leaders and royals to attend

A handful of countries ― including Myanmar and Afghanistan ― have been excluded from Monday's ceremony

Pall bearers carry the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during Wednesday's procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall in London. AP
Powered by automated translation

A quarter of places on the 2,000-strong guest list for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral at Westminster Abbey have been reserved for foreign dignitaries.

Nations which have diplomatic ties with the UK have been invited to send their heads of state, but a handful has been excluded.

Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Belarus, Myanmar and Afghanistan ― ruled by the Taliban — failed to make the cut for invitations to the church service to bid farewell to Britain’s longest-serving monarch. North Korea and Nicaragua have been invited at only an ambassadorial level, joining Iran in that category.

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have confirmed they will attend the ceremony on Monday. Ireland’s Taoiseach, or prime minister, Micheal Martin and President Michael D Higgins have done likewise.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau have also signalled they will travel to London for the event, which is set to be attended by about 500 foreign dignitaries.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said there would not be formal bilateral meetings.

“But we will have a significant number of world leaders, heads of state in the country. She will be meeting a small proportion of those at the weekend,” the spokesman said.

“These will be opportunities to discuss memories of Her Majesty, but in some instances it will be the first time they’ve met since she became prime minister.”

Among the crowds paying their respects to the queen were twins Nicole and Nathalie Nojszewski, who arrived in London from Canada on the day she died.

“We wanted to come to Buckingham Palace to pay our respects,” Nicole, 23, said. “She was such a dignified lady. A lot of people still looked up to her with Canada being in the Commonwealth.”

Also making the trip was Cheryl Discher, 73, on holiday from Austin, Texas, who visited Buckingham Palace. “I just happened to be here in this time of history,” Ms Discher said. “So, I think it’s fitting and right that I pay respect for the queen who has led her country for 70 years.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she will attend the service, which will be the UK’s first state funeral since former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill's in 1965. Princess Diana, who died in 1997, and the queen mother, who died in 2002, were given ceremonial funerals.

Other world leaders who have confirmed their attendance include New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern, Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese, Australia's Governor-General David Hurley, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

A string of foreign royals who have confirmed their attendance include King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium. Representatives from the Swedish, Danish and Monegasque royal families are also expected to be there.

The Japanese government confirmed Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will travel for the funeral. Traditionally, Japanese emperors stay away from funerals because of a cultural belief based in the Shinto religion that considers death impure. As such, the decision to attend the queen’s funeral underscores its importance and the deep bond between the countries' royal families.

President Biden has reportedly been granted an exception to use his armoured vehicle known as 'The Beast' to travel to the Abbey, while most other foreign leaders will have to use coaches. On security grounds, several others, including President Macron, President Isaac Herzog of Israel and Emperor Naruhito, are likely to be allowed to use their own transportation.

Ms Ardern is expected to be joined on the nearly 24-hour flight by a delegation including Maori King Kiingi Tuheitia.

The abbey will be at full capacity so most nations are allowed to send only two representatives. But the Commonwealth countries which retain the monarch as the head of state have been granted extra representation.

The 14 realms — which include Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Papua New Guinea ― can send prime ministers plus a guest, governors general plus a guest and the high commissioner. They are also allowed to bring 10 ordinary citizens.

Australia’s prime minister Mr Albanese has said his country’s representatives had been invited by Buckingham Palace for their “extraordinary contributions to their communities”.

All holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross will be able to attend the funeral.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is expected to hold a reception for world leaders at Church House in Westminster on Monday.

King Charles III will lead his family in mourning the loss of his mother at the funeral with his siblings — Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward ― by his side.

Prince William and Prince Harry and their respective wives Kate, Princess of Wales and Meghan, will also be given prominent positions.

Queen Consort Camilla, Sophie Wessex, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, will also be present.

Crowds visit the queen lying in state at Westminster Hall in London — in pictures

Updated: September 15, 2022, 4:14 PM