Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, United States President Joe Biden and some 500 heads of state and foreign dignitaries will attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II today in a gathering of world leaders not seen for decades.
Elizabeth II, named Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (April 21, 1926 – 8 September 8, 2022), was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from February 6, 1952, until her death. She was queen regnant of 32 sovereign states during her lifetime and 15 at the time of her death.
Her reign of 70 years and 214 days is the longest of any British monarch, the longest recorded of any female head of state in history, and the second-longest verified reign of any sovereign in history.
Osinbajo, Biden as well as the prime ministers of Canada, Justin Trudeau; Australia, Anthony Albanese and New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, are already in the UK ahead of the funeral.
Other Commonwealth leaders expected to attend include Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe. India will be represented by President Droupadi Murmu.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Italian President Sergio Mattarella are among the other world leaders expected to attend.
Members of royal families from across Europe will also be present.
But, Osinbajo yesterday, described the late British Monarch, as “a monarch for all seasons who brought people together from all over the world”.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, Prof. Osinbajo stated this in a short tribute at the Lancaster House.
The Vice President also joined other world leaders yesterday to pay their last respect to the late British monarch at the Queen’s lying in state at different times.
World leaders who visited the Westminster Hall to witness the lying in state alongside the VP included the Trudeau; Biden and Macron, among other royals and Heads of State and Government across the world.
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In the condolence register at Lancaster House, the Vice President noted: “Nigeria joins the government and people of the UK, the Commonwealth and rest of the world in expressing our sincere condolence to the royal family on the passing of a monarch for all seasons. May the Lord bless her memory.”
Later at a bilateral meeting between Osinbajo and the UK Foreign Secretary, they discussed how to improve trade ties between both countries especially expanding opportunities for Nigerian businesses and supporting the country’s climate objectives.
They also discussed the imperative of strengthening international coalition to tackle insecurity in the Sahel and the horn of Africa region.
The UK Foreign Secretary welcomed Nigeria’s participation in the funeral programme for Queen Elizabeth ll, expressing gratitude for Nigeria’s solidarity and friendship with the UK on the mourning of the monarch, and also celebration of the life and times of the late Queen.
Also yesterday, Biden said the “world is better” because of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as he offered his condolences to the people for their loss.
He was speaking at Lancaster House after visiting Westminster Hall to pay his respects to the late monarch.
Biden arrived with his wife Jill at the lying in state shortly before 5pm, ahead of his attendance at today’s funeral.
They were joined by the U.S. ambassador to the UK, Jane Hartley.
The president stood on the platform for around two minutes, taking in the scene, where he crossed himself and exchanged a few words with the first lady.
He looked on with a sombre expression and put his hand to his heart before walking away.
Yesterday evening, King Charles III hosted the Vice President and other visiting world leaders at a reception at the Buckingham Palace as part of activities for the State Funeral.
This morning, the vice president will also attend the Funeral Service for the Queen at Westminster Abbey.
For many leaders, the funeral will be their only chance to meet collectively and engage in some diplomacy.
However, controversy is already trailing some of the guests invited to attend the funeral.
The extension of an invite to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed Bin Salman (known as MBS) has proved controversial.
He is accused of ordering the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018 – an accusation the Crown Prince and his government deny.
Another invite that has led to criticism is that of China’s President Xi Jinping, due to accusations of crimes against humanity levelled at the Chinese government.
But it will not be President Xi attending the funeral. Instead, Vice President Wang Qishan will attend the event.
Representatives from Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Syria, Venezuela, and Afghanistan have not been invited.
Iran, North Korea (DPRK), and Nicaragua have only been invited to send ambassadors, rather than heads of state.
Security has been tightened across the country especially in the capital London where a security scare interrupted the Queen’s sombre lying-in-state late Friday.