– The funeral of Elizabeth II, a historic challenge for British police
Featuring heads of state and royalty, the event promises to be “the largest law enforcement operation” in its history as British police prepare for their first national funeral in almost 60 years.
Police have pulled from their archives the old protocols for Queen Elizabeth II’s grandiose funeral, which promises to be a headache: welcoming the leaders of the planet’s great powers while drawing millions of visitors to London.
The official date of these national funerals, the first since Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s in 1965, is not yet known, but they should take place around September 19 at Westminster Abbey in the heart of the capital. Before the ceremony, the body will be on public display in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, after a procession through the streets of London for four days.
guests of honor
Among the expected personalities are the American Presidents Joe Biden and the French Emmanuel Macron, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and many leaders of the former British colonies. It will also be Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s first foreign trip since ascending to the throne in 2019 after his father’s abdication.
“It will arguably be the largest police and police operation ever in the UK,” Nick Aldworth, former National Police Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, told The Independent newspaper. “All it takes is a car, one person wanting to commit an act of hate, and then not only do you have a constitutional event going wrong, but you also have injuries and deaths,” he continues.
He notes that the ceremony is being held in the context of a “global threat on a very different level” than previous royal funerals, such as that of the Queen Mother in 2002 or that of Princess Diana five years earlier. The UK has been hit by several attacks over the past decade, most notably a series of bloody attacks in London, Manchester and other cities targeted by jihadists.
The funeral plan
The current national threat level, set by MI5 security services and planned to reflect the likelihood of a broader attack, is “severe”.
London’s Metropolitan Police said on Friday they had begun to implement their “often rehearsed” plans for the 10-day national official mourning before the funeral of the monarch, who has served her people longest in her 70-year reign.
“We will ensure security through clearly identifiable patrols,” police said. “The public will also see officers stationed at key locations including transport, royal parks and outside the royal residences in London.”
The Met will work hand-in-hand with the Transport Police, who are responsible for the national network, and the Metropolitan Police, who are responsible for security in this central London business district. “The comprehensive policing plan” will be particularly visible in and around Westminster, which includes Parliament, the Abbey and Buckingham Palace, said Stuart Cundy, the Met’s deputy commissioner.
A sign already that the capital is beginning to shield itself, many roads were closed on Saturday for the official proclamation of the new king, the start of Charles III’s reign, and many police officers on the streets. But some are concerned about the Met’s ability to cope with large crowds ahead of the funeral given the current schedule of three Premier League games for next week in the capital and more games elsewhere.
According to the British press, these could be canceled due to a lack of sufficient police resources, with the majority of the police having to be concentrated in the capital. All football matches have been canceled this week to pay tribute to the Queen, although other sporting events have been maintained.