Former SAS corporal and Afghanistan veteran Ben Roberts-Smith has paid tribute to the Queen, who he met several times.
Mr Roberts-Smith, 43, was invited to the funeral because he is a recipient of the Victoria Cross.
On Saturday he spoke for the first time about the Queen he knew and how sad he was at hearing of her death.
“I feel deeply saddened by Her Majesty’s passing, I had an immense respect for her and she was someone I greatly admired,” Mr Roberts-Smith said.
“In every interaction I had with the Queen she was warm, insightful and engaging.
“She was a magnificent monarch, a stoic leader, and importantly just a lovely lady.
“I feel extremely honored to be fortunate enough to pay my respects to the Queen and humbled that she saw fit to include the Victoria Cross recipients in her funeral procession.”
The defense department has confirmed the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association had invited all holders of the Victoria Cross to attend the Queen’s funeral as well as her lying in state, “in accordance with the wishes of Her Majesty”.
Along with Mr Roberts-Smith, three other recipients of military honors, Keith Payne, Mark Donaldson and Daniel Keighran, have been invited to Monday’s funeral at Westminster Abbey and are expected to take part in an order of chivalry procession.
Mr Roberts-Smith met HRH Queen Elizabeth II on several occasions.
He did not fly with the other guests to the UK on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s RAAF jet.
Instead he arrived at Heathrow on a commercial flight this week and made a beeline for the taxi rank after his driver failed to show.
Mr Albanese, who arrived in London on Saturday morning Australian time, nine “everyday citizens” from Australia will attend the service – including Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, and Sydney father and campaigner Danny Abdallah.
Mr Roberts-Smith and other Australian VC holders were asked separately by the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.
The Queen was patron of the association since its inception in 1956, and personally requested all living members be invited to her funeral.
AUSTRALIA PREPARES TO SAY FAREWELL
Australia is preparing to say goodbye to the Queen.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s first full day in London will be dedicated to saying farewell to Australia’s beloved monarch.
Early Saturday Australian time, he and partner Jodie Haydon placed a bouquet at Buckingham Palace and later today he will join nine Aussies representing the country to view Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall, after gaining special access as VIP guests .
“Her Majesty The Queen held a very special place in the hearts of many Australians,” he said.
“Queen Elizabeth gave a life of service and dignity and Australians honor her service, pay respect to her memory and give thanks for her life of dedication to duty.
“Arriving in London, you can see and feel the affection that is held for Her Majesty and it is an honor to be here representing Australia as Prime Minister.
“During this visit I will be meeting with King Charles and conveying condolences on behalf of all Australians for the loss of the Sovereign and of course, the loss of his Mother.”
Later Mr Abanese, just four months into his premiership, is due to have an audience with King Charles III.
He is also expected to join Governor-General David Hurley to sign a book of condolences at Lancaster House.
Mr Albanese is due to meet the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss for the first time later today Australian time, at the Government’s Chevening country residence in Kent.
At an official Australia House commemorative lunch last night, the Prime Minister said the Queen and Australia shared a mutual love.
“When it came to the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Australia, 16 truly was her number,” he said.
“During her 70-year reign, she consulted with 16 Australian prime ministers, starting with Sir Robert Menzies. Sixteen governors-general, starting with Sir William McKell.
“And 16 visits to our shores, starting with a 58-day tour that saw her visit 68 towns and cities, and pass through many more. She got to know us, appreciate us, embrace us.
“And the feeling was very much mutual.
“Along the way, Her Majesty had one of the most Australian experiences of all – sitting next to Bob Hawke at the races when his horse was winning.
“The photograph of these two connoisseurs of the turf in that moment is a perfect study in balance – the Queen sitting serenely, Bob going off like a firecracker in a suit.
“Bob was criticised, but as he later reflected: “I took great pleasure a little later in pointing to an image of the Queen showing similar exultation when one of her horses won in England.”
Mr Albanese said the Queen enjoyed bipartisan affection.
“The Queen transcended barriers. You could be a republican, and still feel nothing but regard for her,” she said.
“She our good times, and stood with us in our times of trial, bringing sympathy and comfort celebrated when it was so badly needed.
“In 2002, she put this way: “I declare again … that my admiration, affection and regard for the people of Australia will, as it has been … constant, sure and true.”
“We felt the same way. From that very first visit, the Queen had a special place in the hearts of Australians. She always will.”
Seven Victoria Cross and 10 George Cross medal recipients will attend the Queen’s funeral including one from New Zealand and four from Australia.
Corporal Former Ben Roberts-Smith will join the contingent of the country’s most decorated servicemen after the Queen had made her wishes known that Victorian Cross recipients, Mr Roberts-Smith, Keith Payne, Mark Donaldson, Daniel Keighran and George Cross holder Michael Pratt were to be invited to the service before her death.
The decorated former soldiers, and Mr Pratt, a former police officer, will also attend the Queen’s lying in state and some will form part of the procession of the Orders of Chivalry, a guard of honor for the Queen’s coffin.
The nine Aussies from all states and territories – there were 10 until champion horse trainer Chris Waller dropped out when a family member was struck with Covid – arrived early Saturday Australian time on the Prime Minister’s private jet.
They include disabled tennis champion and Paralympian Dylan Alcott and i4give Day and Foundation co-founder Danny Abdallah, who lost three of his six children when a drunk and drugged driver mowed them down.
The Queen’s horse trainer Gai Waterhouse, who hitched a last minute flight with the “ordinary” citizens aboard Mr Albanese’s private RAAF jet when she could not get a commercial flight, and who is invited to the funeral by the Lord Chamberlain, Andrew Parker, said : “It is a huge honor to be traveling with our PM to attend and give thanks for being blessed to have known the Queen.
“The funeral will be an occasion like no other and to represent my country will last in our memory just as will her memory.
“I had the honor of training for the Queen Mother and the Queen. Both were very passionate racing devotees, both were so gracious and kind to us both.
“We loved afternoon teas at Ascot with them. I so enjoyed our regular phone conversations, the Queen had a wonderful sense of humour.”
She went on, “My Carlton House (stallion) won more prize money for Her Majesty than all her other runners put together that year.
“I trained Sweet Idea, Her Majesty’s best broodmare.”
Originally published as Queen funeral: Ben Roberts-Smith breaks silence; Australia prepares to say farewell led by PM