The Daily Telegraph

Victoria and George Cross winners to join 500 world leaders and foreign royalty

All living recipients of UK’S highest honours invited to attend alongside hundreds of overseas dignitarie­s

- By Ben Riley-smith, Nick Gutteridge and Christophe­r Hope

EVERY living recipient of the Victoria Cross and George Cross has been invited to attend Queen Elizabeth II’S funeral on Monday.

The Daily Telegraph understand­s that 17 of the 23 living recipients will be in attendance, some flying halfway around the world to be there.

They will take their seats among more than 500 dignitarie­s, including scores of overseas political leaders and members of foreign royal families.

The Victoria Cross is the highest British decoration for military valour. The George Cross is the highest civilian gallantry award.

Four Australian recipients of the Victoria Cross have been invited: Ben Roberts-smith, Keith Payne, Mark Donaldson and Daniel Keighran. All four are expected to attend. Mr Roberts-smith told the West Australian newspaper: “I have a very deep respect for Her Majesty and everything that she has sacrificed in her life and what she has achieved.

“She has been a magnificen­t monarch, she has been a stoic leader, and importantl­y she was also a lovely lady.”

Collective George Cross awards can also be made. The NHS, Malta for its Second World War effort, and the Royal Ulster Constabula­ry have all received the honour in the past.

Recipients from all three will take part in a procession of patronages from Westminste­r Abbey to Wellington Arch at the end of the funeral.

Lord Ashcroft, who owns the world’s largest collection of VCS, more than 200 medal groups, said: “It is a lovely gesture to invite all the living recipients of the VC and GC ... these individual­s are ‘the bravest of the brave’ and it is entirely appropriat­e that they are honoured in this special way.”

Meanwhile, there were calls yesterday for the procession route to be lengthened so hundreds of thousands more people can pay their respects.

Senior Tories have backed requests to extend the late Queen’s last journey to her final resting place in Windsor to accommodat­e larger crowds.

Their remarks came amid warnings that more than 350,000 mourners will miss out on the opportunit­y to visit the lying in state at Parliament.

David Jones, a senior Tory MP and former Cabinet minister, said: “What’s very clear from the past few days is the enormous affection that people have for the Queen and the fact that so many people are going to be missing her now that she’s gone.

“So I think that anything that gives as many people as possible the opportunit­y to pay their respects is a good idea.”

Another veteran Conservati­ve backbenche­r also supported the idea, adding that it could help alleviate the pressure on the capital over the next few days.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said there was “no plan to change” the procession, which was “agreed with the Palace in advance”.

The invitation­s to Victoria Cross and

George Cross recipients are one aspect of a huge operation being undertaken to organise the guest list for the funeral.

The Foreign Office is working 24 hours a day to plan for what officials see as the most logistical­ly challengin­g event staged in London for decades.

More than 300 Foreign Office employees have been put to work on the diplomatic side, including liaising over invitation­s and helping with transport. A run-through of how dignitarie­s will be transporte­d to and from Westminste­r Abbey was scheduled to take place in the early hours of this morning. Usually the department handles one or two state visits a year, but this weekend’s gathering is akin to organising hundreds at the same time.

The approach to invitation­s is being dictated by tight protocol. Most countries have received an invitation for their head of state and one guest.

It is up to the country in question to decide whether to attend and if so, who the guest should be. Some world leaders will bring partners; others may choose fellow politician­s.

Expected attendees include Joe Biden, the US president; Emmanuel Macron, the French president; Michael Higgins, the Irish president; Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister; Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister; and Jacinda Ardern, the New Zealand prime minister.

There will be overseas royalty as well. Among those expected are King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium; King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain; and Juan Carlos I, the former King of Spain, and his wife Sofia.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has been invited but is not expected to attend. He made his first overseas trip since the pandemic only last week, visiting Kazakhstan. It is also unclear if Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, will attend. The country’s head of state, King Salman, has received the invitation.

Invitees have been given a deadline of today to respond, meaning the full list of attendees may not become clear until tomorrow or the weekend.

On Tuesday, it emerged that the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Myanmar would not be invited, meaning Vladimir Putin cannot attend. Yesterday it was revealed that the leaders of Syria, Venezuela and Afghanista­n would also not be invited. North Korea and Nicaragua are also only being offered the chance to send an ambassador.

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 ?? ?? The Queen’s cortège leaves Buckingham Palace en route to Westminste­r Hall, left, followed by the King and members of the Royal family; on her coffin sat the Imperial State Crown, above
The Queen’s cortège leaves Buckingham Palace en route to Westminste­r Hall, left, followed by the King and members of the Royal family; on her coffin sat the Imperial State Crown, above

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