Well-wishers lay flowers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on September 10, 2022, two days after Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. King Charles III pledged to follow his mother’s example of “lifelong service” in his inaugural address to Britain and the Commonwealth on Friday, after ascending to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8. (Photo courtesy of Agence France-Presse/Odd Andersen)
If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
— Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr.
CALOOCAN CITY, Metro Manila — In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed several state funerals, among them that of presidents Corazon Aquino and her son Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III, and despite the huge crowds of people who joined the parades, there were no security threats in the events.
However, it appears that London’s police force believes the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II would be the biggest security operation it has ever undertaken as prime ministers, presidents and royals come together on Monday, September 19, to pay their respects to Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
This is Britain’s first state funeral in nearly six decades since 1965, when Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was laid to rest on September 19, fifty-seven years ago.
London’s Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy disclosed that his men were preparing for adverse events that may occur. These range from acts of terrorism to protest rallies and crowd crushes triggered by a possible stampede.
The queen’s funeral is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people to London’s streets, echoing other important events in Britain’s history, including her coronation in 1953, the funeral of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, and the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
In effect, the London police force would be deploying the largest ever number of officers on the city’s streets and the largest protection operation for world leaders and royals in the police’s almost 200-year history, with officers from almost every force in the country deployed.
Among the specialist officers on duty would be divers, dog handlers, police on horses, motorcycle outriders, firearms officers, and close protection officers, who will guard members of the royal family and leaders from around the world.
United States president Joseph Biden and French head-of-state Emmanuel Macron are among the most high-profile guests from overseas who have confirmed they will be attending the funeral.
On President Cory Aquino’s death on August 1, 2009, a state funeral was planned for the country’s 11th chief executive and first female head-of-state, but the Aquino family declined an invitation by the government to grant the former president a state funeral. Instead, her funeral was held on August 5, 2009, with her body buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
Aquino’s casket initially lay in state at the Saint Benilde Gymnasium of La Salle Greenhills in Mandaluyong, before it was transferred to Manila Cathedral on August 3. A crowd estimated at 120,000 witnessed the transfer of her remains from La Salle Green Hills to Manila Cathedral. Most mourners were concentrated at the Benigno Aquino Jr. memorial along Ayala Avenue, Makati, where the funeral procession paused briefly while the crowds sang the iconic song ‘Bayan Ko’ by popular folk singer Freddie Aguilar.
The Church in the Philippines permitted Aquino to lie in state under the cathedral’s crossing, making her the first woman and only the second layman after former President Carlos P. Garcia to be given the honor, which is often reserved for a deceased Archbishop of Manila.
In a gesture of civility, then Ilocos Norte District II representative Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and his sister Imee Marcos (the children of the Aquinoses’ supposed bitter political rival, former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.) paid their last respects at the Cathedral on August 4.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was in the United States, cut short her visit in Washington and attended the wake in the early hours of Wednesday, August 5, where she spoke with then-senator Noynoy Aquino for about seven minutes.
President José Ramos Horta of Timor-Leste—a personal friend of Aquino—was at the funeral. Also attending the wake was another of the late president’s friends, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of former Malaysian Deputy Minister and oppositionist Anwar Ibrahim, who wore a yellow ‘tudung’, or hood, for the occasion.
Despite the droves of people who joined the funeral parade, the sight was orderly and no untoward incident was reported.
Focusing this time on Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday, Cundy cited that the massive policing operation prepared for it would surpass other major policing events in London, including the 2012 Olympics and the celebrations in June for the queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which celebrated her 70 years on the British throne.
To give an idea of the scale of the operation, 22 miles (36 km) of barriers had been placed in central London to help control the crowds.
According to London’s deputy assistant police commissioner, “there’s absolutely nothing that compares to (the) policing operation . . . and particularly on Monday for the state funeral, this will be the single largest policing operation that the Met police has ever undertaken.”
The police operation falls on the leadership of Mark Rowley, who is in his first week in the job as the head of London’s police after rejoining the force having previously served as the national lead for counter-terrorism.
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