Foreign heads of state attending the Queen’s funeral must use a group bus to Westminster Abbey rather than driving privately, as per recently released official instructions.
The documents, which were seen by the Guardian, lay out tight guidelines for the dozens of presidents, kings, queens, and prime leaders from other countries who are anticipated to attend the funeral. They advise them to take commercial planes rather than clogging up London’s airports.
The instructions reveal the practical difficulty of hosting the large number of foreign dignitaries who will be coming to London next weekend. This will present a problem for Joe Biden, who will probably need a lot more security. The funeral will be attended in person by the US president.
The instructions, which were first published by Politico, specify that foreign visitors should minimise the size of their delegations as much as possible and that invitations to funerals should preferably only be sent to the head of state and their spouse, without any members of their family or staff.
The government expressed sadness that “because of limited space at the state funeral service and associated events, no other members of the principal guest’s family, staff or entourage may be admitted.”
The guidance adds: “The royal funeral unit would therefore be grateful if accompanying delegations can be kept as small as possible. This will also reduce disruption and transit time at airports. Where possible, overseas representatives should plan to arrive in the UK at least one day before the state funeral or the first event, which they are attending.”
increaseitionally, it states that heads of state should use other London airports if they are unable to fly commercially and that Heathrow will not be open for private flight arrangements or aircraft parking. Because of the enormous number of visitors, the government will reportedly refuse to use helicopter transportation.
Foreign leaders are also cautioned in the advisory that “it will not be possible to display flags at any airport for arrival or departure.”
The sheer number of private automobiles belonging to international leaders planning to attend the funeral is too much for London’s streets to handle. The government will instead transport them to a different location in London where it will “provide coach transport from a central assembly point … Because of traffic restrictions, it will not be possible for guests to travel to such events in their own vehicles.”
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Visiting leaders can record brief statements when they sign condolence cards, but there won’t be any “Autocue or makeup facilities,” according to the instructions.
After the state funeral, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, will throw a reception near Westminster Abbey for all the foreign guests in attendance.
(with inputs from agencies)