Britain and the world are laying Queen Elizabeth II to rest on Monday at a state funeral that will draw presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers — and up to a million people lining the streets of London to say a final goodbye to a monarch whose 70-year reign defined an age.
A day packed with funeral events in London and Windsor began early when the doors of 900-year-old Westminster Hall were closed to mourners after hundreds of thousands had filed in front of her coffin since Sept 14. Many of them had spent cold nights outdoors to pay their respects around the queen’s flag-draped coffin in a moving outpouring of national grief and respect. Later, a bell at Westminster Abbey began to toll, and it will ring once a minute for 96 minutes to honor each year of Elizabeth’s life.
The closing of the hall marked the end of more than four days of the coffin lying in state and the start of the U.K.’s first state funeral since the one held in 1965 for Winston Churchill, the first of 15 prime ministers during Elizabeth’s reign. Two days before her Sept. 8 death at her Balmoral summer retreat, the queen appointed her last prime minister, Liz Truss.
Among the last mourners to join the line to see the coffin was Tracy Dobson from Hertfordshire, just north of London.
Monday has been declared a public holiday in honour of Elizabeth, who died Sept. 8 at 96. Her funeral will be broadcast live to more than 200 countries and territories worldwide and screened to crowds in parks and public spaces across the U.K.
Police officers from around the country will be on duty as part of the biggest one-day policing operation in London’s history. On the evening before the funeral, King Charles III issued a message of thanks to people in the U.K. and around the world, saying he and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, have been “moved beyond measure” by the large numbers of people who have turned out to pay their respects to the queen.
For the funeral, Elizabeth’s coffin will be taken from Westminster Hall, across the road to Westminster Abbey, on a royal gun carriage drawn by 142 Royal Navy sailors. The same carriage was used to carry the coffins of late kings Edward VII, George V and George VI, and of Churchill.
The service, in the Gothic medieval abbey where Elizabeth was married in 1947 and crowned in 1953, will be attended by 2,000 people ranging from world leaders to health care workers and volunteers.
Mourners started arriving to take their seats shortly after 8 a.m. (0700 GMT; 3 a.m. EDT). Dignitaries were arriving later, with many heads of state gathering at a nearby hospital to be driven by bus to the abbey. Hours before the service was set to begin, London authorities said all viewing areas along route of the funeral procession were full.