Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be among the guests at Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral in London next week.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to world leaders, royalty and some of the most powerful people on the planet, who are expected to attend the service at Westminster Abbey on September 19.
Hundreds of current and former heads of state and government will join scores of other dignitaries descending upon Britain to honour the late 96-year-old monarch, who died at her Balmoral residence in Scotland on Thursday after an extraordinary 70 years on the throne. And while many are still scrambling to get an invite to formally farewell the most famous woman of an era, there will be some noticeable absentees at what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest security and logistic operations Britain has ever staged.
Surprise Australians score invite to funeral
Champion horse trainer Chris Waller is one of ten Australians (excluding dignitaries) who reportedly scored an invitation to the Queen’s exclusive funeral.
Mr Waller, the thoroughbred trainer of champion horse Winx, looked after many of the Queen’s horses and built a close relationship with Her Majesty over the years.
He spoke to the Queen regularly about how her horses were doing, and grew worried when he didn’t hear from her the Saturday before last, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The publication reported that Mr Albanese told Mr Waller about his invitation on Monday.
Mr Waller hosed down those reports on Tuesday morning, insisting he hadn’t received a formal invitation.
“I’m not sure if that’s been confirmed yet, there was talk of it (an invite) … It would be a great honour if that was the case but still waiting to get confirmation,” he told 2GB.
“I heard there was a few people that would be invited, we’ve got to go through the protocols… what an honour that would be.”
He spoke fondly about his special relationship with the Queen and their shared love for horse racing.
“She was a very special lady as we continue to hear from every person around the world. She touched so many people’s lives. Her love for animals, people, Australia, the Commonwealth… and her curiosity always shone through,” he told Nine’s Today show.
“It was an absolute privilege (to speak to her on the phone), she was very normal and made you feel very comfortable, she could always hear how nervous you were talking to her – she made you feel so comfortable, any conversation always revolved around how the animal is and how its performing.”
Champion wheelchair tennis player Dylan Alcott, who famously made the Queen giggle during a candid Zoom call after being named Australian of the Year, will also reportedly attend the funeral.
Dignitaries attending include Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodi Haydon, the Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda and the acting high commissioner to the UK Lynettte Wood and her partner.
Mr Albanese sparked headlines after dismissing a request for world leaders to make their way to London via commercial flights.
Documents obtained by Politico revealed foreign heads of states and their spouses were asked to travel on commercial flights and that the use of helicopters to get around had been banned.
State cars cannot be used to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, to be held next Monday, and leaders will instead be bussed en masse to Westminster Abbey.
But the Prime Minister, who was unkindly dubbed ‘Airbus Albo’ after his repeated overseas jaunts so quickly after his election, has insisted he will still be taking the Royal Australian Air Force’s VIP jet on Thursday evening.
“They’re longstanding plans for myself and the Governor-General to travel to London and we’ll be doing so on Thursday night,” Mr Albanese told the ABC.
Big names on the list
Along with the UK’s new prime minister Liz Truss and the Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also expected to attend the Queen’s funeral.
Brazil’s controversial president Jair Bolsonaro is also reported to be headed to London. It’s not known if India’s Narendra Modi will travel to Britain.
Naturalist and one of the most famous voices on television, Sir David Attenborough, is thought to be on this list of attendees.
In addition to the British royal family — including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — members of the royal families of Spain, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands will also make an appearance.
“It would not be surprising if all the crowned heads of state from Europe come, as well as heads of state and heads of government in other countries,” said a former cabinet minister who was in government at the time of another major funeral, that of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 2013, Politico reports.
“It will be a huge diplomatic event,” the source added.
“Her Majesty’s last contribution to the wellbeing of our country is to provide an excuse for a huge diplomatic get-together.”
John Kampfner, director of the “UK in the World” initiative at the Chatham House think tank told the outlet it “will be a funeral like no other, or few other”.
“There have been great state funerals before — of American presidents, of Nelson Mandela and others,” he said.
“But quite simply the queen was the most famous person in the world, and as a result I think there will be an attendance list that will be unprecedented.”
Question whether Trump would be invited
On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the British government invited only Mr Biden and first lady Jill Biden to represent the US at the Queen’s funeral.
“The invitation [that] was extended to the US government was for the president and the first lady only,” Ms Jean-Pierre said, confirming reports that Mr Biden had been asked not to assemble a more high-powered American delegation.
“As far as invites, I would refer you to the United Kingdom, their government on that protocol generally.”
The press secretary declined to comment when a reporter asked if Mr Biden would seek to bring along former US presidents if offered additional spots at the church.
A big question mark remains around whether or not Donald Trump would be invited to the funeral under those conditions.
CNN reporter Jake Tapper said he would expect Mr Biden to invite other living US presidents if he were given the chance, but it remained to be seen if Mr Trump would be among them.
“I mean, the UK has made it very clear, that’s up to the President. He’s invited. He can bring whatever delegation,” Tapper said on the network’s The Lead on Friday.
“So obviously, Obama, you know, Carter, Bush, no-brainers. What about Trump? Will he invite Trump?”
Mr Trump appeared to have been angling for an invite after penning an article about the time he spent with the monarch and paying tribute to the Queen via his website.
“Queen Elizabeth’s historic and remarkable reign left a tremendous legacy of peace and prosperity for Great Britain,” he wrote.
“Her leadership and enduring diplomacy secured and advanced alliances with the United States and countries around the world.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin is the most notable world leader who will be conspicuously absent as his country continues to wage war on Ukraine.
He did send his condolences for the Queen’s passing and congratulations to Charles III on his ascension. But it’s thought an invite did not made its way to Moscow.
Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky is also likely to be too busy to attend – -despite the rapturous welcome he might receive in London.
It is not yet clear if Chinese President Xi Jinping will be offered the chance to attend.
‘Tight security and road restrictions’
Westminster Abbey will be the focus of the funeral. The historic church – where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip married in 1947 – has also been the setting for all but two British coronations since 1066. It has the capacity for about 2200 people.
Britain’s government said Monday that travel plans for foreign leaders and their spouses to Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral “will vary” by country, following a report some leaders would have to jostle for space on special buses to bring them to the abbey.
“Arrangements for different leaders will vary depending on things like security risks, so we are providing guidance and information through embassies,” British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s spokesman told reporters.
It follows news website Politico reporting that attendees have been told to take commercial flights and escorted private buses to reach the service at London’s Westminster Abbey.
As well as being told not to use their own vehicles to reach the country’s first state funeral in nearly six decades, they have also been advised against travelling over London by helicopter, the website said.
Instead, they will be transported by the buses to the abbey from a site in west London, Politico reported, citing an official protocol message sent to foreign embassies.
“Tight security and road restrictions” were cited as the reasons, but the purported stipulations have raised eyebrows, with one London-based foreign ambassador telling the website: “Can you imagine Joe Biden on the bus?”
Asked about the report and US President Biden’s plans, the prime minister’s spokesman added: “That would be a question for the US and how they prefer the president to travel and I think that’s fairly well documented”.
US presidents travel long-distance on Air Force One – typically one of two customised Boeing 747 planes – and then use their Marine One helicopter and an armoured limousine dubbed “The Beast” to get around.
The US embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Around 500 foreign dignitaries are expected to attend the landmark event, as officials mount “a huge-scale operation”, a source at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office told AFP.
“The logistics have been meticulously planned to try to make it as smooth as possible for those attending,” the source added.
The Guardian newspaper reported in 2017 that non-royal world leaders would be put up at the five-star Claridge’s hotel for the Queen’s funeral, but it was unclear if those plans still held.
The state funeral, the first since that of former prime minister Winston Churchill in 1965, will be an epic undertaking in terms of security and logistics.
Thousands of police officers from across the country will be redeployed to London to help manage the huge crowds expected.
As well as world leaders and royals, up to a million people are expected to descend on the streets of capital during the four-day period leading up to the funeral, when the queen’s coffin will lie in state at parliament.
Visiting global leaders can attend the lying-in-state and sign a condolence book at Lancaster House immediately afterwards, according to the leaked document quoted by Politico.
They will also be able to deliver a tribute to the late Queen of up to three minutes, which will be recorded for the media, it said.
King Charles III will reportedly host a reception at Buckingham Palace for overseas leaders on the eve of the funeral.
– With AFP