The Daily Telegraph

King to host reception of the century on eve of service

Dignitarie­s from almost every country in the world invited to gather at Buckingham Palace

- By Victoria Ward royal correspond­ent

THE King will host world leaders and foreign royalty at Buckingham Palace on the eve of Queen Elizabeth II’S funeral in one of the largest official state receptions in living memory.

Presidents and prime ministers from across the globe will arrive in London throughout the weekend ready to pay their respects to the late Queen.

Every country that has diplomatic ties to Britain, bar a handful including Russia and Belarus, has been invited to send a representa­tive, while kings and queens from the Netherland­s, Norway and Spain will be among the many royals in attendance.

On Sunday, they will rub shoulders at a grand reception at Buckingham Palace, where they will be formally welcomed by the King.

Some, such as Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, will have travelled for more than 24 hours to be there.

Palace aides have not confirmed the numbers but the scale of the funeral operation means that leaders will gather in numbers not seen for a generation. All “working members” of the Royal family are expected to attend, leaving questions over the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Prince Andrew.

The Prince and Princess of Wales will be on hand to accept condolence­s, as will the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

Guests include ambassador­s from North Korea and Iran as well as Empress Masako of Japan, who will accompany Emperor Naruhito, despite largely retreating from public life two decades ago.

Visiting world leaders and monarchs will also be given the opportunit­y to view the Queen’s coffin as it lies in state at Westminste­r Hall.

There will be “no disruption” to the public viewing, sources insisted, revealing that they would be facilitate­d alongside the public queue in time slots spread out from tomorrow until Sunday afternoon.

It raises the prospect that some of those who have been queuing for hours to see the coffin might find themselves paying their respects at the same time as presidents such as Joe Biden of the US or France’s Emmanuel Macron.

The King’s reception on the eve of the funeral will be a muted affair owing to the solemnity of the occasion, with guests asked to wear morning dress, with no hats or decoration­s.

They will gather in the picture gallery and state apartments at about 6pm, where drinks and canapes will be served.

Such an event at any other time would see guests dressed in white tie, with royals donning tiaras, Garter sashes, and strings of diamonds and pearls.

Guests walking along the red-carpeted corridor in pairs will be announced upon arrival.

The funeral has been described as “the biggest internatio­nal event” the UK has hosted in decades and one of the largest diplomatic moments of the century.

Foreign office officials are said to have handwritte­n about 1,000 invitation­s for both the service on Monday and the King’s reception at the palace the previous evening. For most countries, that means the head of state plus one guest.

They were addressed to the leaders of nearly every country in the world apart from Syria, Venezuela, Afghanista­n, Russia, Belarus, and Myanmar.

Syria and Venezuela are not invited because Britain does not currently have diplomatic relations with those countries. Afghanista­n was not invited due to the current political situation, a source said.

Russia and Belarus are not being invited to send any representa­tives because of the invasion of Ukraine.

A decision to invite Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, sparked a backlash from Tory MPS who were sanctioned by Beijing last year in response to similar

‘How can they ban Belarus, Russia and Myanmar and not say no to China with its record of rights abuses?’

moves by the UK over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservati­ve Party, was among those targeted by Beijing.

He told the online news site Politico it was “astonishin­g” that Chinese representa­tives had been invited, asking: “How can they ban Belarus, Russia and Myanmar and not say no to China?

“They have a huge record of human rights abuses, including what we believe to be genocide, smashing churches and persecutin­g Christians.”

President Xi is not expected to attend but will send a delegation headed by vice president Wang Qishan.

Distinguis­hed guests will initially gather for the funeral at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, before travelling to Westminste­r Abbey together by coach.

Among the royals expected to attend are King Willem-alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherland­s, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway and Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco. Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia are travelling to London, while former king and queen Juan Carlos and Sofía have been invited.

Royal representa­tives will also be sent from countries including Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Greece

On Saturday, the King and Queen Consort will attend a lunch for governors general before His Majesty meets prime ministers of Commonweal­th realms at Buckingham Palace.

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