Queen Elizabeth funeral updates: Inside Her Majesty’s last days; William and Kate meet Aussie troops

Queen Elizabeth II was “sparkling” and “buoyant” and determined to swear in the UK’s new Prime Minister in her last days, it has been revealed.

Only 48 hours before the “kissing of hands” ceremony took place with Liz Truss, the Queen was advised to consider leaving the task to Prince Charles. But the Queen would not even consider the switch, according to The Sun, citing “informed sources”.

She told them all: “Of course I have to, it’s my job.”

She spent 40 minutes with the outgoing PM Boris Johnson, who described the Queen as “bright and focused” during the encounter.

The Queen also attended dinners with guests and family just five days before her death.

“It was unusual as it was very casual. No one was smartly dressed,” a source told The Sun.

“But the Queen was in sparkling form. She was very, very jolly.

“She was funny, joking. She was buoyant.”

Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields told the BBC the Queen seemed frail but in “really good spirits” when he dined with her the weekend before she died.

Another source said: “No one was ever in a panic at Balmoral that weekend. But the doctors were there.”

The Sun also obtained some of the last photographs ever of the Queen being entertained by a Canadian pipe band last month. She is pictured wrapped up warm under a gazebo in the grounds of Balmoral Castle surrounded by two of her sons, Princes Andrew and Edward.

Jack Brooksbank, the husband of her granddaughter Princess Eugenie, sat two chairs away.

Pipe Major Bethany Bisaillion said: “She really enjoyed it, she was laughing and smiling and was on great form.

“During the performance she was clapping along and having a great time.”

KATE AND WILLIAM MEET AUSSIE TROOPS

Australian military personnel have met with the Prince and Princess of Wales ahead of taking part in the funeral service for late Queen Elizabeth II.

Wearing a black suit, Prince William wore his service medals on his chest as he was accompanied by Catherine, the Princess of Wales, in all black.

The couple were seen shaking hands with soldiers on hand to represent forces from Commonwealth nations Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Prince William, who himself completed more than seven years of military service, was heard asking Australian soldiers: “Have you been a part of any jubilee celebrations in the past?”

It wasn’t all formality though with talk turning to sport as Prince William is a fan of rugby.

Prince William, talking with troops from Australia, said the difference between the celebrations in June and the funeral preparations shows “the highs and lows of it all”.

Kate, who was speaking with Canadian military personnel, said: “Going from that (the Jubilee) to this in a few months is very strange.”

She was also heard discussing with the troops her “lack of sleep”.

Some 39 members of the Australian Defence Force will join Commonwealth counterparts on Monday in the procession at the state funeral of Her Majesty.

The state funeral will involve thousands of defence personnel, many of whom have been deployed from various Commonwealth nations.

The Prince and Princess of Wales spoke at length with a number of soldiers, stopping for several minutes with a representative from each nation.

There for Australia was Head of Defence Staff – London, Brigadier Grant Mason.

In the background, soldiers were seen rehearsing for the funeral march on Monday.

Prince William told Greg Gifford, of the New Zealand Defence Force, that the Queen would be keeping an eye on Monday’s proceedings.

“One of the key things I took away from what he said was how the Queen will definitely be looking down on the whole funeral service,” Mr Gifford told PA News agency.

“He said she would be interested in the detail of the soldiers, how the drill is carried out, it’s precision, our dress, things like that.”

All in uniform, New Zealand military performed a traditional Maori haka for the Prince and Princess of Wales.

The troops, of varied ranks — from entry level soldiers through to the Commodore — have been rehearsing for a week at the Army Training Centre Pirbright, outside of London, where Prince William and Princess Kate were due to visit early Saturday.

“The Prince and Princess will meet with senior representatives of the defence staff and service people from each nation to thank them all for the part they are playing in marking the death of Her Majesty The Queen,” a statement from Kensington Palace read.

Australian Commodore Ray Leggatt said the troops’ cortege role was decades in the planning — and honoured the Queen’s great love of the armed forces, born largely through the war years.

“There has always been an operation Bridges as it’s called, for many years and it is updated as people change within our organisation,” Commodore Leggatt told News Corp Australia.

“That plan has been in place and updated for decades. Everyone is very much aware that they are representing not just the ADF but Australians in general as well.”

Australia’s London contingent includes Head of Defence Staff – London, Brigadier Grant Mason, one Defence advisor from each of the services and 35 accompanying troops.

Soldiers from Canada and New Zealand will also be involved, taking part in the official procession of just over two kilometres from Westminster Abbey to Wellington Arch.

From there, the late Queen will be driven in the Royal hearse to Windsor.

Her Majesty served as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Engineers (RAR), Royal Australian Infantry (RAINF), Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps (RAAOC), and the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC).

She was also Captain General of the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery (RAA) and Air Commodore in Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force – Reserve. All vessels in the Royal Australian Navy were recognised as Her Majesty’s Australian Ships (HMAS).

The Australian cohort will be wearing “the full ceremonial uniform”.

Some had met the Queen and other members of the royal family in their service.

“It is a very sombre occasion but people do feel very privileged and very humbled to be a part of such a historic occasion but also just to recognise Her Majesty’s time of service,” he explained.

“At first it was a great shock,” he said.

“But once we have arrived, it has been a very humbling privileged feeling to be involved knowing the special relationship Her Majesty had with our organisations.”

As the most senior representative, Commodore Leggatt will be inside Westminster for the funeral ceremony.

He is not sure how he and his fellow ADF members will feel on the day.

“It is going to be an interesting one, the full dress rehearsal we did that started at 2am … the focus was getting that ceremony right, everything from staying in step to being in the right place,” he said. “Now that we’ve been through that, on the day when you are actually there, it will be quite emotional.”

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s has confirmed he will have the audience with the king on Saturday as well as a separate meeting with bis British counterpart Liz Truss. Mr Albanese will be attending the Queen’s funeral and signing a condolence book. He will also appear a function with Commonwealth leaders.

PRINCE EDWARD OVERWHELMED BY EMOTION

The Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward said the family has been overwhelmed by the tide of emotion that has engulfed the country and Commonwealth.

“The Queen’s passing has left an unimaginable void in all our lives,” he said in a statement.

“Sophie and I have taken huge pleasure in seeing our James and Louise enjoying the places and activities that their grandparents loved so much.

“Given that my mama let us spend so much time with her, I think she also rather enjoyed watching those passions blossom. Those times together, those happy memories, have now become massively precious to each and every one of us.”

He said while it was lovely to have said their own private farewell at Balmoral, where the Queen died, it was now time for others to say their farewells at her funeral in London.

“We have been overwhelmed by the tide of emotion that has engulfed us and the sheer number of people who have gone out of their way to express their own love, admiration and respect to such a very special and unique person who was always there for us,” he said

“And now, we are there for her, united in grief.”

KING CHARLES THRILLS WELSH FANS

King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, we’re greeted with loud cheers as they arrived for the service to pray for the late Elizabeth II in Wales.

The royals joined with Welsh politicians and dignitaries inside Llandaff Cathedral.

Outside, a group of schoolchildren were due to meet the King on the cathedral’s green after the service.

A moving service was held at Llandaff Cathedral, with leaders from all faiths delivering Prayers of the Faithful as part of Charles’ inclusionary vision as the new head of the Church of England.

The service was conducted in both Welsh and English; a choral hymn was accompanied by two harpists in honour of it being the traditional Welsh instrument. Charles reinstated the role of Royal Harpist in 2000.

The congregation included Prime Minister Liz Truss on her first visit to Wales since taking office.

Before leaving the Cathedral, the King signed the visitor’s book, this time using his own pen after a week of calamity with leaking ink.

After the service, the King and Queen Consort greeted the devoted crowds who had been lining the streets around the cathedral for hours ahead of their arrival.

Charles has mastered the art of the quick handshake but briefly extended a stop here and there to pat a baby or give a gentle squeeze to a young fan’s hand and accepted flowers for his wife.

And he didn’t miss a step when a man from behind the front row yelled out “fist bump!”, with the King instantly reciprocating.

Tens of thousands were lining the streets of Cardiff, with crowds building throughout the morning ahead of his arrival.

The Queen Consort shook hands with many well wishers, but Gelert, the seven-month-old corgi was the standout following the service.

Showing no signs of her reportedly broken toe, Camilla embraced the crowd, and Gelert’s paw.

“At last, a corgi,” the Queen Consort said.

The cute puppy’s owner Charlotte was beaming after the brief encounter.

“I just got to meet the Queen Consort,” she said, after waiting more than three hours.

“I don’t think I was the star attraction.”

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Cardiff to see King Charles and Camilla.

The former Prince of Wales, who this week handed that title to his son, also visited the Welsh parliament on Friday local time.

Speaking in Welsh, in a similar way to when he invested as the Prince of Wales in 1969, King Charles said: “I know the Senedd and people of Wales share my sadness.”

According to a translation, His Majesty added in Welsh: “It was a privilege to be Prince of Wales for so long. Now my son, William, will bear the title. He has a deep love for Wales.”

The King was speaking at the Senedd, the Welsh name for their parliament on Cardiff Bay.

The building sits on the edge of a wide harbour, next to a theatre built to celebrate the millennium and surrounded by restaurants and a ferris wheel.

“Having visited the Senedd regularly since it was founded, and having heard your heartfelt words today, I know we all share the deepest commitment to the welfare of the people of this land and that we will all continue to work together to that end,” the King added in his speech.

King Charles was also due to meet dignitaries at Cardiff Castle later in the day before returning to London.

The new monarch was due to hold a meeting with faith leaders at Buckingham Palace’s Bow Room, another sign of his commitment as leader of the Church of England to welcome all religions.

In keeping with the dog theme among crowds of royal fans in Belfast, well wishers brought their pets.

Jodie Powell has brought her children Halle, 8, and Alby, 4, to see the King.

“We we’re all very sad about the Queen,” Ms Powell, said.

She said she was looking forward to seeing a moment of history with King Charles visit.

“But to be fair, I’m more excited about the new Prince and Princess of Wales,” she said.

“It’s a long time since we’ve had a Princess of Wales,” she added, referring to the late Princess Diana.

“They’ve got young fresh eyes, I think they will be here a bit.”

HUGE LONDON QUEUES

Queues to pay tribute to the Queen have got so long officials have asked people to stay away.

The British Government said in an update just before 7pm AEST: “Southwark Park has reached capacity. Entry will be paused for at least 6 hours. We are sorry for any inconvenience. Please do not attempt to join the queue until it reopens.”

‘FINAL VIGIL’

After visiting Wales, King Charles III is to return to London to lead a “final vigil” for Queen Elizabeth II with his sister, Princess Anne, and brothers, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, on Saturday morning Australian time.

The Palace also confirmed the Queen’s eight grandchildren will stand vigil beside her coffin in Westminster Hall for 15 minutes on Sunday morning Australian time.

The Prince of Wales will stand at the head, the Duke of Sussex at the foot. “At the King’s request” they will both be in uniform.

Prince William will be flanked by his cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Philips, the children of the Princess Royal; while Harry will be with the Duke of York’s daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The Earl of Wessex’s children Lady Louise and Viscount Severn will stand near the middle of their grandmother’s coffin.

It comes as Buckingham Palace announced the full running order for Her Majesty’s funeral on Monday, which will cost British taxpayers $9 million.

The man charged with organising the momentous event said it had been both “humbling and daunting”.

“The Queen held a unique and timeless position in all our lives,” The Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, said.

“This has been felt more keenly over the past few days as the world comes to terms with her demise.

“Her Majesty’s passing has left many people across many continents with a profound sense of loss. The respect, admiration and affection in which the Queen was held, make our task both humbling and daunting. An honour and a great responsibility.

“It is our aim and belief that the state funeral and events of the next few days will unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths, while fulfilling Her Majesty and her family’s wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign.”

Starting at 10.44am local time (7.44pm AEST), King Charles will walk with his siblings from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey, where the service is being held.

The Queen’s grandsons, Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Philips, will walk behind.

Her coffin will be carried during the procession on a 123-year-old gun carriage towed by 98 Royal navy sailors, in a tradition dating back to the funeral of Queen Victoria.

The Procession will be led by a massed Pipes & Drums of Scottish and Irish Regiments, the Brigade of Gurkhas, and the RoyalAir Force. There will be 200 musicians for the walk.

Eight minutes later, the procession will arrive at the Abbey.

The service begins at 11am local time (8pm AEST) and will be conducted by the Dean of Westminster.

British PM Liz Truss and the Secretary-general of the Commonwealth will read Lessons, while the Archbishop of York, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Free Churches Moderator will say prayers.

The sermon will be given by the Archbishop of Canterbury who will also give the commendation, while the Dean will pronounce the blessing.

At 11.55am the Last Post will sound, followed by two minutes of silence to be observed in the Abbey and throughout the UK.

Reveille, the national anthem, and a lament played by the Queen’s piper will bring the state funeral service to an end.

The bearer party will then shift the coffin to the State Gun Carriage positioned outside of the Abbey.

The coffin will then be followed by King Charles and the Queen Consort Camilla, the Prince and Princess of Wales and other members of the royal family, who will walk in the procession to Wellington Arch.

The Arch was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace, later becoming a victory arch proclaiming Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon.

The Queen’s coffin will be carried during the cortege on a 123-year-old gun carriage towed by 98 Royal navy sailors – known as the Sovereign’s Guard – in a tradition dating back to the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901.

The procession will involve a total of more than 6000 personnel from all three armed forces as well as troops from Commonwealth nations, including Australia.

Doctors and nurses from Britain’s National Health Service will also take part, in recognition of their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After prayers and a blessing, a lone bugler will sound The Last Post and the country will fall silent for two minutes before the Queen’s coffin is taken through London’s streets for a final time.

From there, it will be transferred by royal hearse to make the 38km journey to the Queen’s main residence, Windsor Castle, the royal family leaving prior to get ahead to restart the procession there.

At 3.10pm the procession continues toward St George’s Chapel and half an hour later King Charles and other members of the royal family will take up the procession at the rear of the coffin.

The Queen Consort with the Princess of Wales, and the Duchess of Sussex with the Countess of Wessex will again follow by car.

The chapel will be open to 800 members of the family and household staff for a committal service from 4pm (1am, Tuesday AEST).

The funeral concludes with a private interment at Windsor Castle at 7.30pm (4.30am, Tuesday AEST).

CAMILLA IN ‘PAIN’

Queen Consort Camilla broke her toe and has been in “quite a lot of pain”, according to royal sources.

She suffered the injury prior to the Queen’s death, according to UK’s The Daily Telegraph.

A source told the newspaper she has just been “getting on” with the job of supporting the King as he dealt with the loss of his mother and becoming monarch.

“It is unfortunate timing to say the least but she’s been an absolute trouper,” the source said.

A spokesman for the King said: ‘We won’t comment on medical conditions.’

Queen Consort Camilla’s duties this week have involved being on her feet for long periods.

It is not known how she broke her toe.

PM HINTS AT ROYAL VISIT

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed a royal visit is on the cards for Australia in the near future, but it won’t be King Charles.

The Prime Minister, who is due to arrive in London on Saturday to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, has been granted an audience with the King.

But discussions on when he will make his first official visit to Australia as head of state have not begun.

Instead, Mr Albanese confirmed the freshly created Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, could be coming our way.

“There have been some preliminary discussions about the now Prince and Princess of Wales visiting Australia. And of course the royal family have always been welcome visitors here in Australia and they would be again,” Mr Albanese told UK’s ITV.

The last time William and Kate visited Australia was in 2014, nine months after the birth of Prince George.

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese’s office released a photo of himself with the 10 “everyday Australians” chosen to attend the funeral with Mr Albanese and Governor-General David Hurley.

Taken while in transit, the Australian delegation includes Sydney father Danny Abdallah, who lost three of his children and niece to a drunk driver and Australian of the Year and disability advocate Dylan Alcott.

On Sunday the delegation will be guests at a luncheon at Australia House, which will be attended by Mr Albanese and other prominent in London for the Queen’s funeral.

“It’s an honour to be invited to play a minuscule role in history. I know only too well what it’s like to lose a loved one, I feel for the royal family,” Mr Abdallah said on Friday.

DAME KIRI: ‘IT IS A PRIVILEGE’

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will perform one last duty for the late monarch on Monday.

The New Zealand operatic singer spent time privately and professionally with the late Queen Elizabeth II and has flown to London to attend her state funeral.

“It is a duty, a real privilege,” Te Kanawa told NewsCorp Australia of flying to London to attend the funeral service at Westminster Abbey on Monday. “It is very special to be asked to come and represent my country, what is more wonderful than that? We were told on Monday to be here and we are here now jet-lagged as hell, which is normal, and they send me back on Tuesday. To be here is very special.”

Te Kanawa, 78, was first appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire at the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1973, and was subsequently elevated to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1982 honours.

She also holds the Order of New Zealand from the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours and was appointed Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in the 1990 Australia Day Honours for services to the arts, particularly opera, and to the community.

In 2018, Te Kanawa was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in Her Majesty’s 2018 Birthday Honours with her investiture performed by the now King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.

“I met the Queen on many occasions, I have spent time at Sandringham (House) a couple of times with the royal family privately,” she said. “I have been a guest many times and of course on the ceremonial side too, I have been involved in quite a lot of that meeting Her Majesty. They are just some of those very special moments that you remember.”

At Sandringham House, Te Kanawa remembers enjoying a casual barbecue with the Queen and her family.

“There was just a general conversation really. You talked about the day and how it went, the weather or what was happening on the day. She drove us at night to the barbecue house (on the estate) and it was a special time. We all ate and we all sat around and chatted about all sorts of things.”

Te Kanawa famously also performed Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim at the wedding of then Prince Charles to the late Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.

At the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, she sang Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth, followed by God Save the Queen.

“She was a remarkable woman,” Te Kanawa said. “I can’t think there is anybody in the world who has ever been as good as that, especially on the diplomatic side because she was able to keep her peace, say nothing and yet it all seemed to work. The bumps and trials in life, she managed to go through and they passed by and you went on to the next step. Nothing sort of held in some sort of quarrel, there was no quarrel about anything with her.”

CHINA DELEGATION ‘BANNED’

China’s official delegation is expected to be barred from attending the Queen’s laying in state ahead of the state funeral.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle will prevent them entering Westminster Hall while seven MPs and peers remain sanctioned by Beijing, a parliamentary source told the British Press Association news agency.

Two sanctioned Tory MPs, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Tim Loughton, have been raising concerns about the delegation’s possible attendance, saying it was “extraordinary” they had received an invite.

Sir Lindsay was upholding his position on barring Chinese state officials while the parliamentarians remain sanctioned, the source said, confirming the story first reported by the Politico website.

A House of Commons spokesman said “we do not comment on security matters” while Sir Lindsay’s spokesman also declined to comment.

Number 10 also declined to comment, with a Downing Street spokeswoman saying: “Admission to Parliament is a matter for Parliament”.

In a letter to Sir Lindsay earlier this week, Sir Iain and Mr Loughton, along with crossbench peer Lord Alton and Labour’s Baroness Kennedy, warned against giving the delegation access.

“We are greatly concerned to hear that the Government of China has been invited to attend the state funeral next week, despite other countries Russia, Belarus and Myanmar being excluded,” they wrote.

“Given that the United Kingdom Parliament has voted to recognise the genocide committed by the Chinese Government against the Uighur people it is extraordinary that the architects of that genocide should be treated in any more favourable way than those countries who have been barred.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping is not scheduled to attend the Westminster Abbey funeral on Monday, instead sending his deputy, Wang Qishan.

Originally published as Queen Elizabeth funeral updates: Inside Her Majesty’s last days; William and Kate meet Aussie troops

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