It will be an event like no other – a historic day filled with poignancy and magnificence. The list of guests at the Queen’s funeral will be no less impressive.
US President Joe Biden, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Canadian and Australian counterparts Justin Trudeau and Anthony Albanese will take part. So are the leaders of most Commonwealth countries.
High profile guests from Northern Ireland will also be in attendance, ranging from political and religious leaders to local recipients of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The leaders of the five major parties are here; Sir Geoffrey Donaldson (DUP), Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein), Naomi Long (Alliance), Doug Beattie (UUP) and Colum Eastwood (SDLP) will be in attendance.
Mr Eastwood said yesterday that the Queen had “made every effort to contribute to peace in Ireland and reconciliation between the people of these islands”. He added: “Extending a hand of comfort and compassion to our friends and neighbors who are hurting at this time is not difficult.”
Sinn Féin’s Alex Muskie will attend as Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. He paid tribute to the Queen’s role in peacebuilding during King Charles’ visit to Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina, will attend, along with Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Mr Martin said he and Mr Higgins would travel to London for the late Queen’s funeral, “reflecting the admiration and respect” people around the world, particularly in Ireland, had for her. In an interview with BBC Radio 4, he said the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011 was the “culmination of years of peace-building” and would be remembered as having “opened a new chapter” in Anglo-Irish relations.
The leaders of all the mainline churches will be here.
The Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, confirmed his attendance at the funeral and said the Queen “was a courageous peacemaker and reconciled differences”.
Also in attendance will be Armagh Church of Ireland Archbishop John McDowell, Presbyterian Church Moderator Reverend John Kirkpatrick and Methodist Church President Reverend David Nixon.
Police chiefs from across the UK were invited to the funeral and the PSNI was represented by Chief Constable Simon Byrne.
The funeral procession will also include two active police officers as well as former RUC officers, including George Cross Foundation RUC chairman Stephen White.
Among the 200 Queen’s Birthday Honorees at the funeral will be some from Northern Ireland, including the Rev Mervyn Gibson, Grand Secretary of the Orange Order, who has been awarded an MBE for services to the community.
Mr Gibson said: “To attend Her Majesty’s funeral is just an occasion that I think will be very emotional and just overcome with a sense of occasion.”
Other NI honorees heading to the funeral include Patricia Donnelly, who was awarded an OBE after leading a Covid-19 vaccine program in Northern Ireland, and Hillsborough’s Brenda Heron, who received an MBE for her long-standing involvement in Girlguiding.
“It’s just a privilege and an absolute honour,” Mrs Herron said of her invitation to the funeral. “I have a huge mix of emotions. I really admired the Queen.
Other attendees include Lady Mary Peters and Viscount Brookborough, grandson of Northern Ireland’s third prime minister.
Earlier this week, Lord Brookborough recalled how the Queen had told him she hoped “there will be better things in Northern Ireland in the near future”. Her Majesty was speaking as he left Windsor Castle, where he was staying while visiting the Royal Racecourse at Ascot this year.