Have you been invited to an event and wonder who hasn’t? Or how close are you to sitting on the host? Or who else is at your table?
In recent days, hundreds of presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, princes and other world dignitaries invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral – scheduled for Monday – have been pondering similar questions, reading protocol arrangements like tea leaves amid speculation about who has been asked to attend the most important A diplomatic event held by the United Kingdom in recent years.
Although the official guest list has not been published, Westminster Abbey, where the funeral will take place and can seat 2,000 people, is expected to be filled to a maximum. Leaks of documents from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth Office and Development Office (FCDO) relating to funeral arrangements show the government is urging visiting leaders to limit the number of delegates and to consider commercial air travel in a bid to reduce congestion at Heathrow Airport.
But it is another demand that has sparked diplomatic outrage: that dignitaries abandon their private cars at a gathering point near the abbey and make their way in droves by bus – a controversial idea, apparently, until the British prime minister’s spokesman insisted on Monday. That arrangements for commanders may “vary according to individual circumstances” and that the information provided was “guidelines.”
Word of exceptions granted to some leaders — such as President Biden, who accepted the invitation early on and would go to the Abbey in his armored Cadillac known as “The Beast” — reportedly left diplomats scrambling to get the same treatment as presidents, or at least clarify who would be seated next to them in the coach.
Meanwhile, the question of who is invited (or not) and who is going (or not) has raised its own set of problems.
So far, European royals from Belgium, Denmark, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden have confirmed their attendance. So did all the Commonwealth Heads of State, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indian President Cyril Drupadi Murmo, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she will attend as well as Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska; They are due to be joined by the presidents of Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Poland. On Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted from his official account that he would also be present.
From further afield, Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako will attend the funeral, in breach of usual protocol, as a measure of the close relations he and his family enjoyed with the late king. Some strange comrades are scheduled to attend: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.
Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol are expected to attend the conference.
Mexico will delegate Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard. And in a move that hints at a frosty relationship with the UK, Iran, North Korea and Nicaragua have been invited to send only ambassador-level representatives.
Only six countries are not on the list of invitees in any capacity: Russia, as a result of its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus to facilitate the attack; Afghanistan, now under Taliban rule; Myanmar, where the military took control in last year’s coup; Syria, with which there were no diplomatic relations due to the ongoing civil war. Venezuela, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom.
A particularly big bump with China occurred when a group of British parliamentarians on Thursday heard about the call to Chinese President Xi Jinping and called for it to be scrapped, calling it “completely inappropriate” in a letter to the speaker of parliament.
Hostility there centers on the UK government’s imposition of sanctions on Chinese officials it considers responsible for the genocide against the Uyghurs, China’s Muslim minority. Beijing imposed its own travel ban and asset freeze a few days later on British officials, including parliamentarians who wrote the letter. Parliament responded by preventing the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom from entering Parliament. In April, it also voted to recognize Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang as genocide.
Despite the quarrel, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan confirmed he would attend, according to China’s Foreign Ministry. However, some MPs, in statements to the British press, said that they had received assurances from Parliament leaders that a Chinese delegation would not be allowed to go to Westminster Hall to witness the status of the Queen in the state, where there are tens of thousands of people. People have queued for more than 24 hours since Thursday for a chance to pay their respects.
But in an apparently apparent response, a Parliament spokesperson told reporters on Saturday that “the Head of State (or their representatives) who have been invited to attend the state funeral at Westminster Abbey are also invited to attend the false state funeral at Westminster Hall.”
More controversy arose over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who official Saudi authorities said would hold a phone call with the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Saturday evening. The crown prince was identified in a declassified CIA report that he ordered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose body was then dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish capital Istanbul in 2018.
The crown prince denied having anything to do with the murder. Since then, he has worked to rehabilitate his image at the international level. If he is to attend the funeral, it will be his first trip to London since 2018.
Saudi Arabia remains an important customer for British arms companies and employs thousands of expatriate workers. During his decades as prince, King Charles III visited Saudi Arabia more than 10 times; Last year, his personal assistant resigned when press reports revealed that his assistant had promised to give a Saudi businessman the Knight’s Medal in exchange for a donation to the then prince’s charities. The businessman, Mahfouz Merhi Mubarak bin Mahfouz, was awarded the Commander of the British Empire Medal by then-Prince Charles in a private ceremony in 2016; The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation earlier this year. The king denied his knowledge of the promises made to Mahfouz.
Although there is no official confirmation yet, CNN Al Arabiya quoted a source close to the Saudi royal family as saying that the crown prince will arrive in the English capital on Sunday. It remains unclear whether he will attend the funeral himself or will have a chance to offer his condolences to the royal family in private. But the prospect of his coming angered many rights groups, as well as Khadija Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, who denounced the invitation.
“The death of the Queen is a truly sad occasion. The Crown Prince should not be allowed to be a part of this mourning nor be allowed to tarnish her memory and use this time of mourning to gain legitimacy and normalization,” Cengiz said in an interview with The Guardian. The UK would like to arrest him when he arrives in London, but said there is little hope they will do so.
The lobby group Against Arms Trade (CAAT) also criticized the UK government for inviting Saudi Arabia and said it would organize protests in front of the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain; Both countries are important importers of British arms.
“Mohammed bin Salman is at the head of a murderous regime,” Katie Fallon, Parliamentary Coordinator for the CAAT, said in a statement. “These tyrants are using the Queen’s funeral as an opportunity to whitewash their reputation.”