Sharif meets King Charles as UK prepares for Queen’s funeral

LONDON: The prime minister met with King Charles at Buckingham Palace as the United Kingdom prepared for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, the climax of 11 days of mourning.

According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, the meeting was held at a reception on Sunday (early Monday in Pakistan) hosted by the king in honour of the visiting leaders, during which Shehbaz Sharif extended his condolences to Charles over the passing away of his mother.

Sharif said the late monarch was a “source of inspiration and strength for generations” of Commonwealth nations, the APP reported. Pakistan withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1972 after Britain, Australia and New Zealand recognised Bangladesh, but returned in 1989 after the election of Oxford-educated Benazir Bhutto to the office of prime minister.

He also said the people of Pakistan have fond memories of her two state visits to the country, in 1961 and 1997, adding the “bond of affection” between the royal family and the nation of Pakistan had only strengthened with time.

The UK is holding a state funeral for the queen, the country’s first since 1965 when Winston Churchill was afforded the honour.

Sharif flew to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the royal family to attend the funeral of the queen who passed away on September 8 at the age of 96.

SOMBRE PAGEANTRY

The 2,000-strong congregation included some 500 presidents, prime ministers, foreign royal families and dignitaries — including United States President Joe Biden — a fitting end for Britain’s longest-serving monarch who spent 70 years on the throne.

Sharif was received at the Great West Door — the western entrance to Westminster Abbey, a collegiate church of the Church of England — by the Dean and Chapter, the governing body of the Abbey.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets as the queen’s casket made the short journey from Westminster Hall where she had been lying-in-state, pulled along on a gun carriage by 142 sailors with arms linked. A bell tolled and bagpipes skirled.

Pin-drop silence fell over London’s Hyde Park nearby as thousands of people, who for hours had picnicked and chatted, went quiet the second the queen’s coffin appeared on screens erected for the occasion.

Shortly before, hundreds of armed personnel in full ceremonial dress had marched in a historic display of kilts, bearskin hats, scarlet tunics and bands in white gloves.

Inside the abbey, lines of scripture were set to music that has been used at every state funeral since the early 18th century. Among those walking behind the casket was her great-grandson and future king, nine-year-old Prince George.

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 1.5 miles (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.

It will then be lowered into the royal vault as the Sovereign’s Piper plays a lament, slowly walking away until music in the chapel gradually fades.

Later in the evening, in a private family service, the coffin of Elizabeth and her husband of more than seven decades, Philip, who died last year aged 99, will be buried together at the King George VI Memorial Chapel, where her parents and sister, Princess Margaret, also rest.

Millions 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.

— With Reuters

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