World leaders, four billion audience bid Queen Elizabeth farewell
About four billion people on Monday viewed the televised proceedings of the state funeral held for Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Elizabeth Alexandra Windsor, officially known as Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8, 2022, at age 96.
The event had been projected to smash other TV records, one of which was the opening ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, which had one of boxing’s greatest heavyweights, Muhammad Ali, given the honour of lighting the Olympic flame.
The sporting event was viewed by 3.6 billion people. Others were the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981 (One billion viewers), Live Aid in 1985 (1.9 billion viewers), the funeral service held for the late Princess Diana in 1997 (2.5 billion viewers) and the Live8 concerts in 2005 (Two billion viewers). Most television stations like the BBC, ITV and CNN dedicated time to airing the Queen’s funeral with a large sum of the four billion viewers accessing through the internet.
The crowd, according to Sky News, which gathered around the royal palaces and in central London to pay their last tribute to Queen Elizabeth II was about a million.
Viewing centres were filled up with tens of thousands hoping to experience the historic moment. Numerous mourners who had planned to see the Queen’s state funeral and procession were left stranded at London’s Paddington station, as there were no trains running in or out of the region.
Daily Mail reported that about two million people lined the streets to watch the Queen’s coffin make its final journey.
Behind the coffin were the Queen’s children, King Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Behind them were Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips, and other members of her family.
About 2,000 people, including royalty, world leaders, politicians and members of the royal household attended the funeral at Windsor Castle. The list was reduced to 800 guests during the committal ceremony held at St George’s Chapel.
The world leaders who graced the event included members of the Commonwealth, Heads of State, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, and foreign royal families.
BBC News reported that no fewer than 100 presidents and heads of government across the globe were reported present at the funeral, including United States President Joe Biden and wife, Jill Biden; Polish President Andrzej Duda and wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda; French President Emmanuel Macron and wife, Brigitte; UK Prime Minister Liz Truss and husband, Hugh O’Leary; German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Italian President Sergio Mattarella, and Irish President Michael D. Higgins. Others were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The United Kingdom’s seven surviving prime ministers attended Westminster Abbey to bid farewell to the Queen.
Current Prime Minister Liz Truss was joined by Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Sir Tony Blair, and Sir John Major, according to a BBC report.
All seven were pictured seated alongside one another at the funeral with their spouses.
The Queen’s reign spanned the tenure of 15 prime ministers in total, the first of which was Sir Winston Churchill.
Among her last acts was to accept the resignation of Johnson and invite Truss to form a government.
In a tribute following the Queen’s death, Truss described her as the “rock on which modern Britain was built” and said her “devotion to duty remains an example to us all”.
The service saw Truss deliver a Bible reading, John 14:2, which recounts Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples at the last supper.
“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you,” it reads.
Sir Tony and Sir John could both be seen wearing their stars of the Order of the Garter, the most senior form of knighthood in the British honours system, outranked in precedence only by the Victoria Cross and the George Cross.
As members of the Privy Council, all seven prime ministers also appeared at the Accession Council ceremony, at which the King was formally proclaimed Britain’s monarch, at St James’s Palace last week.
Each of them will have spent considerable amounts of time in the Queen’s company during their periods in office.
Throughout her reign, the Queen held weekly private audiences with the prime minister of the day, and would also often invite them to visit her at Balmoral Castle during her summer breaks on the estate.
Paying tribute after her death, Brown recalled the Queen’s generosity as a host.
“She made you feel at home by bringing other guests that she knew you would like,” he said. “There was a book in your room that she had chosen specially from her library for you to read.
“That was the kindness and generosity and the considerate nature that she had.”
Speaking during celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, Cameron said his time as prime minister had offered “no finer moment than each week having the almost unique ability to sit down, in private, with Her Majesty and being able to call on her sage advice and wise counsel”.
Vice President Yemi Osibanjo led the Nigerian delegation to the burial. Other African leaders included Gabonese President Ali Bongo; Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo; Kenyan President William Ruto; Rwandan President Paul Kagame; Senegalese President Macky Sall; South African President Cyril Ramaphosa; and Sudan’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
Monarchs who attended the ceremony included King Philip and Queen Mathilde of Belgium; King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck; Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah; Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary; Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan; King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan; Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait; King Letsie III of Lesotho; Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein; Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg; Malaysia’s Sultan Abdullah of Pahang; Prince Albert II of Monaco; Crown Prince Moulay Hassan of Morocco; King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands; King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway; Sultan Haitham bin Tariq al-Said of Oman; Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar; Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud of Saudi Arabia; King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain; Juan Carlos, former king of Spain, and former Queen Sofia; King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden; King Tupou VI of Tonga; Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi; Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president, prime minister, and minister of defence of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.
However, invitations were not sent to some countries, while some were asked to send only ambassadors, not heads of state. Due to the collapsed diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia over the war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the funeral. Also snubbed as a result of the war in Ukraine was Belarus for aiding the invasion of the country by Russia. Afghanistan was not invited as ties with the Middle East country were severed after the Taliban took control in August 2021. Myanmar, which was sanctioned by the UK for the repression of the Rohingya community, was asked not to send representatives. Leaders of Syria and Venezuela were not invited because they lack full diplomatic relations with the UK.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who received an invite to attend the ceremony rather sent a delegation as he had a security and trading meeting with India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis didn’t attend the event but was reportedly represented by the Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Paul Gallagher. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who had recently given a speech urging his country to shed colonial ties, was also absent despite receiving invitation. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also didn’t turn up for the funeral. Invitations sent to him had been criticised by rights groups over the killing of journalist Jaamal Khashoggi.
The Queen was laid to rest on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where her father, King George VI, sister, Princess Margaret and husband, Prince Philip were buried.
Osinbajo, King Charles III
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday said Commonwealth countries and their leaders “are all looking forward to a wonderful reign…that will bring prosperity, peace, not just to England, but to the Commonwealth.”
According to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, Prof. Osinbajo stated this in London during a media chat with journalists after attending the state funeral service of the departed British monarch, Queen of England, at Westminster Abbey.
The statement is titled ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral: solidarity of world leaders testament to brotherhood among countries, says Osinbajo.’
The Vice President described the coming together of leaders from different parts of the globe to celebrate the life of late Queen Elizabeth II as a testament to the brotherhood of nations.
He said, “For countries like ours, for Nigeria and for the Commonwealth, this has been very ennobling, very strengthening.
“I am sure that King Charles felt not just the honour of having so many people come by, but also the reassurance that there is a brotherhood across the world and that the Commonwealth remains strong, a Commonwealth of free nations who willingly subscribe to coming together, to work together to achieve sometimes disparate political objectives but clear economic objectives.”
Describing the event as historic, Prof. Osinbajo said “It is one that is unlikely to happen, perhaps in another lifetime, just the sheer enormity of all that has happened and the gathering of leaders from everywhere, the goodwill, the good wishes, and all of that from practically everywhere around the world.
“So, I think that this has truly been a testament to the sort of person the Queen was – in life and death, she brought people together and perhaps even more so in death.”
The Vice President then prayed for a successful reign for King Charles III, noting that “one wishes King Charles very well indeed, and I think we are all anxious that he succeeds. And that he perhaps does even better than his mother, which is the hope of his mum. I am sure that the Queen will really hope that all her successors and in this case, King Charles, will do better than she did.
“We are all looking forward to a wonderful reign, a reign that will bring prosperity, peace, not just to England, but to the Commonwealth and to all of us.”
A queen for all seasons
Extolling the departed Queen Elizabeth II as a monarch for all seasons, the VP said “in the 70 years that she has been Queen, it’s obvious that through practically every cycle – war, peace, economic decline, apartheid, all the various cycles, where truly major things were going on, she held her own and she was always able to bring a certain degree of understanding.
“And just the gravity of someone who doesn’t hold political office is so well respected and well regarded. In so many ways, she was a factor in practically all of the various cycles that we have experienced, not just in the Commonwealth, but in the world itself.
“I think she was a stabilizing force, that was why I thought the description (borrowed from the man for all seasons) that she was the Queen for all seasons.”
After the funeral service at Westminster Abbey, the vice president and all the foreign dignitaries—numbering about 500—were hosted to a reception by the UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Mr James Cleverly.
The Queen’s funeral procession then proceeded to Windsor Castle where she would be laid to rest, passing through selected streets in London.
Obasanjo eulogises monarch
As the remains of the late Queen Elizabeth II were interred in United Kingdom on Monday, former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo says he had tremendous respect for the late Head of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Obasanjo described her as a personality with great human relations, whom he equally had a perfect relationship with.
The former president said this on Monday when he granted an interview with News Central TV at his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Penthouse residence, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Obasanjo in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, further eulogised the late Queen.
He added that he was about to leave the secondary school when the late Queen first visited Nigeria in 1956.
The ex-President said he was fortunate to have hosted the Queen as Nigerian President during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Abuja in 2003, “and I can say that she was wonderful.
“My relationship with the Queen was perfect. She was a great, great woman, who had shown a great example in human relationships. She carried herself so graciously, so dignified. She was somebody I have tremendous respect for.
“I join the rest of the world to mourn with her family, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth (because she was the Head of Commonwealth), and the rest of the world. I also mourn with Prince Charles, who promised to continue from where she had stopped. May her soul rest in peace.” (Punch)