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Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral: The UK’s Biggest Security Detail After WWII

thehourlynews 2 weeks ago 0
20220925 175325

Police officers enter the grounds of the Palace of Westminster in London on September 15.
Police officers enter the grounds of the Palace of Westminster in London on September 15. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

LONDON (AP) — Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday will be attended by more than 70 heads of government from around the world and represents the city’s biggest security challenge for Britain since World War II.

With up to 2 million people waiting in the streets, and the royal family planning to walk outdoors behind the Queen’s coffin, police are trying to strike a balance between security and pageantry.

Presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens arriving from abroad increase the risk. Officials from Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6, are reviewing terrorist threats as part of the huge security team working the funeral.

On Monday, snipers will be stationed on rooftops, surveillance drones will fly overhead, and 10,000 uniformed police will be on duty, with thousands of plainclothes officers in the crowd. For days, police with bomb-sniffing dogs have been patrolling key areas. Private security guards will help with crowd control.

Police from all corners of the country have arrived to help. From the Welsh Cavalry to the Royal Air Force, more than 2,500 uniformed servicemen will be in attendance.

With hotels full, a couple hundred young soldiers slept on office floors and showered in portable stalls set up in a parking lot near Buckingham Palace.

“This is better than I’m used to,” said a soldier from Norfolk, some 100 miles north of London, as he walked to the outdoor showers with a towel draped over his shoulder.

A special unit called the Fixed Threat Assessment Center is monitoring “fixed” people, those identified as having potentially dangerous obsessions with the royal family.

Watch live at 5:30am, September 19: Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II

The officers will come knocking on your door and ask, ‘Are you taking your medicines? Are you going to London this weekend?'” said Simon Morgan, a retired London police officer who served from 2007 to 2013 as a personal protection officer for the queen and other members of her family, including her son, the now King Carlos III.

“The events of the last week will certainly have caused someone to want to do something,” said Morgan, who now runs a private security company.

London’s Metropolitan Police have arrested a man who ran towards the queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall on Friday night.

A great concern is the possibility of injuries caused by crushing people. Some stations on the London Underground system will be designated ‘entrance only’ or ‘exit only’ to help control flow, and Transport for London is prepared to close stations if it gets too crowded.

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will be among nearly 500 foreign dignitaries, including at least 70 heads of government confirmed through Friday, who will arrive in London to pay their respects to the nation’s longest-serving monarch.

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Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako plan to be there, along with some two dozen kings, queens, princes and princesses, from places including Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. French President Emmanuel Macron, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier are coming. So are New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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British officials have sent invitations to the roughly 200 nations with which the UK has full diplomatic relations. Delegations from Commonwealth countries can include up to 16 people, but most others are limited to the head of state and one guest. Some heads of state who are unable to travel have appointed another senior official, according to a British government official closely involved in the planning.

Some notable people who were not invited were Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of Belarus due to their continued aggression in Ukraine. The leaders of some countries, including Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, were not invited, but their ambassadors were.

Nearly all the heads of government in attendance will be bussed to the funeral at Westminster Abbey and a reception at Buckingham Palace on Sunday night. Several officials said it was easier to secure a handful of buses than dozens of cars. But it is not what the leaders are used to.

“They have chosen to come. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event and the protocol is not going to be perfect,” said Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to the United States. “Most of them will just suck it up and move on. This is not about them; this is about the queen. I think people will be reasonable about it.”

The Bidens are among the few leaders to get a special exemption from the rules. They will travel in the heavily armored US presidential limousine, known as “the Beast.” British officials said the decision was made based on security assessments, not politics.

Hundreds of thousands of people have waited 7 hours or more for the chance to walk past the queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall, a glimpse that lasts about 30 seconds.

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On Monday, up to 2 million people are expected to converge on the city center to watch his coffin pass by and the royal family walking behind it.

“There is a very deliberate wish that people feel this occasion is for everyone,” said Will Tanner, who was deputy chief of policy at 10 Downing Street under former Prime Minister Theresa May. “This is not just an official ceremony behind closed doors, it is for everyone to participate and enjoy.”

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The public will have several opportunities to see the royal family walking behind the queen’s coffin.

It will first be with a short procession from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey for the funeral. Then, after the service, the coffin will be carried in a 45-minute procession from the church to Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner, where it will be transferred to a hearse for the 25-mile journey to Windsor Castle, west From london.

There will also be a third procession in Windsor – a half-hour walk from the car to St George’s Chapel, where she will be laid to rest.

Each time, King Charles III and Princes William and Harry, as well as other senior members of the British royal family, will stand behind a 123-year-old horse-drawn carriage, dating from the reign of Queen Victoria, which carries the coffin of the queen.

“Security and ceremony are not happy bedfellows,” Bob Broadhurst, the top police commander for Prince William and Catherine’s wedding and for the 2012 London Olympics, told reporters this week.

“Security needs to be managed in a way that is befitting the dignity of the occasion, but without leaving anyone at greater risk than necessary,” he said.

British officials said their approach to security was different from the American approach.

“The American model is, you put them in a bubble, a secure bubble, that no one can get close to, you put them in armored vehicles,” Broadhurst said.

The royal family will be outdoors, he said. “And that crowd of many millions that will be in the streets has not been registered and cannot be registered. It is absolutely terrifying. Everyone will be on tenterhooks.”

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Darroch, who was also a UK national security adviser, said the British were able to be a bit more open than the Americans in part because of the very different gun cultures in the UK and the US.

“Their approach to security starts with the fact that many Americans appear to be armed,” he said. “It is almost impossible to acquire a weapon in this country. It makes a big difference.”

He noted that there are still many threats and ways to wreak havoc and violence. For example, Lord Mountbatten, the great-uncle of King Charles III, was assassinated by a bomb planted by the Irish Republican Army in 1979.

Most British police do not carry weapons, but there will be specialized armed units on Monday.

Several officials said the royal family feels it is important to stay physically close to the public at a time when an increasing number of people, especially younger generations, see the monarchy as an irrelevant relic.

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“Basically, they are paid by the taxpayer,” Darroch said. “If they were locked behind bulletproof glass, people wouldn’t like it and it would affect their popularity. They have to be accessible.”

The costs of the security operation for the queen’s funeral are enormous and involve so many different agencies that there is no reliable count. But officials said the expense was far greater than anything else they have undertaken.

Security costs when Queen Elizabeth’s mother died in 2002 were more than $5 million. Security cost more than $7 million for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding. But those events were relatively small in scope and didn’t include dozens of world leaders. The funeral of Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, was held within the constraints of a coronavirus lockdown last year.

Especially among those who are not fans of the monarchy, there have been some questions about the taxpayer bill, given that the royal family is wealthy and many Britons are suffering financially amid high inflation and rising energy bills.

Some people have expressed irritation at traffic disruptions and school and store closures across the country. At least three Premier League football matches have been postponed because there will not be enough officials available to provide security at those events.

But most of the people interviewed said the cost was worth it.

“The vast majority of the British people, I guarantee, will want this to be a stunning and flawless occasion with the eyes of the world on London,” Darroch said. “They won’t be the least bit interested in what it costs, curious perhaps, but not resentful.”

The United Kingdom prepares for the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It was still a shock.

Paul Daniels, 63, who drives an electric version of the iconic black cabs, said he doesn’t care what the cost is, and the country will get billions more back in tourism in the future.

“Everyone around the world will be watching, and many will want to vacation here after what they see,” he said. “But it’s not just tourism money. He deserved a good farewell and when we saw him we all felt good. There’s nothing like a British royal funeral. The precision! The pomp!

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