LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Hundreds of foreign royals and heads of state are expected to attend the 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 in six decades will be the queen’s family members, courtiers, public figures and UK politicians.
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.
King Harald V of Norway, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Philippe, King of the Belgians will all attend.
Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, 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 with his wife Queen 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, but it has not yet been confirmed if he will attend.
He was set to hold talks with British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Sunday, despite international outrage at the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by Saudi agents.
US President Joe Biden and his wife Jill head the diplomatic guest list and flew into Britain late on Saturday, also paying their respects in front of the coffin on Sunday.
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 armored 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.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wife, Olena, seems likely to attend, having visited the queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall on Sunday.
Authoritarian presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are also coming.
China 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 Isaac Herzog of Israel, Sergio Mattarella of Italy, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea.
In a symbolic move to pay tribute to the queen, whose 2011 state visit to the Republic of Ireland helped heal decades of tensions over Northern Ireland’s position in the UK, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin will be present.
Numerous leaders will come from countries where Queen Elizabeth was the head of state.
They include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian premier Anthony Albanese and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Leaders will also come from other states in the 56-nation Commonwealth, of which Queen Elizabeth was the symbolic figurehead.
They include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
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 due to 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 Thursday.
Russia and Belarus have embassies in London and their presidents sent King Charles III messages of condolences.
Other countries with no invitations are Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela and Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.