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President attends Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

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President Nicos Anastasiades is attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey, along with dozens of foreign leaders and heads of state.

The First Lady, Andri Anastasiades, accompanies the President.

London is feverishly preparing for the first public funeral since the one for Winston Churchill in 1965.

The ceremony attracts distinguished guests to the British capital.

Kings, heads of state and government and other dignitaries have arrived in London ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

Among them, US President, Joe Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, France President Emmanuel Macron, the Presidents of the European Commission and European Council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, respectively, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, Naruhito, Emperor of Japan.

Westminster Abbey, where the funeral will occur at 1 pm Cyprus time on Monday, can accommodate 2,000 people.

Police security measures are stricter than those for the 2012 Olympics held in London.

Leaders and monarchs from across the globe gathered in London on Monday to bid farewell to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth at a state funeral of inimitable pageantry, marking the passing of a beloved figure who unified the nation through her 70-year reign.

Thousands of people lined the streets to witness the passage of the queen’s casket from the historic Westminster Hall to nearby Westminster Abbey and eventually on to Windsor Castle, where she will be laid to rest alongside her late husband.

Biden paid tribute to the 96-year-old, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who earned almost universal respect for her service to her country as its role in the world diminished and changed.

Among the crowds who came from around Britain and beyond, people were climbing lampposts and standing on barriers and ladders to catch a glimpse of the royal procession.

Millions more will watch on television at home on a public holiday declared for the occasion.

The funeral of a British monarch has never been televised before.

Along the Mall, one of London’s grand ceremonial boulevards, the crowd stood 15-20 people deep in places.

Among the 2,000 in the congregation will be some 500, world leaders.

The queen’s great-grandchildren, Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, the two eldest children of now heir-to-the-throne Prince William, are also attending.

“As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and myself in this time of grief,” said King Charles in a statement.

INVINCIBLE

Elizabeth died on September 8 at her Scottish summer home, Balmoral Castle.

Her health had declined, and for months the monarch who had carried out hundreds of official engagements well into her 90s had withdrawn from public life.

However, in line with her sense of duty, she was photographed just two days before she died, looking frail and holding a walking stick as she appointed Liz Truss as her 15th and final prime minister.

Such was her longevity and her inextricable link with Britain that even her own family found her passing a shock.

“We all thought she was invincible,” Prince William told well-wishers.

The 40th sovereign in a line that traces its lineage back to 1066, Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, Britain’s first post-imperial monarch.

She oversaw her nation trying to carve out a new place in the world, and she was instrumental in the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations, now a grouping comprising 56 countries.

When she succeeded her father, George VI, Winston Churchill was her first prime minister, and Josef Stalin led the Soviet Union.

Despite being reputedly 5ft 3ins (1.6m) tall, she dominated rooms with her presence and became a towering global figure, praised in death from Paris and Washington to Moscow and Beijing.

National mourning was observed in Brazil, Jordan and Cuba, countries with which she had little direct link.

Transport chiefs said one million people were expected in central London for the funeral, while police say it will be the biggest security operation ever in the capital.

King Charles, his siblings and sons, Princes William and Harry and other members of the Windsor family will slowly walk behind the coffin as it is taken on the gun carriage to Westminster Abbey, led by some 200 pipers and drummers.

The tenor bell of the Abbey – the site of coronations, weddings and burials of English and then British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years – will toll 96 times.

“Here, where Queen Elizabeth was married and crowned, we gather from across the nation, from the Commonwealth, and the nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service,” David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster, will say.

TWO-MINUTE SILENCE

The funeral will end with the Last Post trumpet salute before the church, and the nation falls silent for two minutes.

Afterwards, the coffin will be brought through central London, past the queen’s Buckingham Palace home to the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, with the monarch and the royal family following again on foot during the 2.4 km procession.

From there, it will be placed on a hearse to be driven to Windsor Castle, west of London, for a service at St. George’s Chapel.

This will conclude with the crown, orb and sceptre – symbols of the monarch’s power and governance – being removed from the coffin and placed on the altar.

The Lord Chamberlain, the most senior official in the royal household, will break his ‘Wand of Office’, signifying the end of his service to the sovereign, and place it on the casket.