CARDIFF: Crowds cheered for King Charles III (pix) in Wales on Friday despite some opposition to his ascent to the throne, as miles-long queues to see his late mother's coffin reached capacity.
In Cardiff, Charles was to meet Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, an avowed republican. Protests had been threatened after the new monarch was quick to declare his son William the new Prince of Wales.
But Drakeford said questions over the future of the monarchy would “be a footnote to the dominant feelings of the day”.
A large crowd chanted “God save the king” as Charles shook hands with the public following a multi-faith service in Cardiff’s Llandaff Cathedral on what is the last of his visits to the UK’s four nations.
Charles then attended the Welsh parliament to receive politicians' condolences following the death on September 8 of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96.
In a speech alternating between English and Welsh, he vowed to follow the “selfless example” of Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
Charles said William’s “love for this corner of the Earth is made all the greater by the years he himself has spent here” -- after his heir trained as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot in Anglesey.
Outside his next stop at Cardiff Castle, a few protesters held up banners declaring “Abolish the Monarchy”, “Citizen not subject” and “Democracy now”.
Ahead of the late queen's state funeral on Monday, Charles and his siblings -- Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward -- were due to hold a family vigil before the flag-shrouded casket as it lies in state in London.
- 'Timeless' -
The “Vigil of the Princes”, with all four royals in ceremonial military uniform, will last for 15 minutes from 1830 GMT.
Eight of the queen's grandchildren, including William and his brother Harry, will hold a similar vigil on Saturday evening, royal sources confirmed.
Elizabeth's death has triggered an outpouring of emotion, with tens of thousands queueing for hours, many through the night, to pay their respects in Westminster Hall.
The queue was paused for “at least” six hours on Friday after a park at the end of the line along the River Thames reached capacity, the government said.
At Westminster Abbey on Monday morning, the queen will be honoured with Britain's first state funeral in nearly six decades, with more than 2,000 guests expected.
After the televised service, the coffin will be transferred by royal hearse to Windsor Castle, west of London, for a family-only burial in which the queen will be laid to rest alongside her late husband Philip, parents and sister.
US President Joe Biden, Australian leader Anthony Albanese, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron have all confirmed their attendance at the funeral, as have Japan's Emperor Naruhito and numerous other royals.
“The queen held a unique and timeless position in all our lives,“ said the Duke of Norfolk Edward Fitzalan-Howard, also known as the Earl Marshal, who is organising the funeral.
“The next few days will unite people across the globe and resonate with people of all faiths, whilst fulfilling Her Majesty and her family’s wishes to pay a fitting tribute to an extraordinary reign,“ he told reporters.
- Police stabbed -
Police are mounting Britain's biggest-ever security operation ahead of the funeral, as crowds file past the queen's casket round the clock all weekend and global dignitaries jet in.
Early Friday, two police officers were stabbed in central London, one suffering “life-changing” injuries, the Metropolitan force said, but it ruled out any link to terrorism.
An official delegation from China has been banned from attending the lying-in-state following an intervention by House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, parliamentary sources said.
It comes after China sanctioned several British lawmakers over their criticism of the country's human rights record.
“As the hosts, the British side should uphold both diplomatic courtesy and gracious hospitality,“ foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters in Beijing.
Downing Street refused to comment.
The line to enter the vast Westminster Hall, where Elizabeth's casket has been lying in state since late Wednesday has attracted an endless stream of mourners. On Friday, the government said that those at the end faced a wait of at least 14 hours.
The casket is draped in the Royal Standard flag, with the Imperial State Crown, her ceremonial Orb and Sceptre on top, with tall, flickering candles at each corner.
- 'Waste of money' -
The sombre atmosphere is completed with guards in ceremonial uniform posted around the podium in a constant vigil.
Mourners marked their moment in front of the coffin in various ways, from bows or curtsies to the sign of the cross or by simply removing their hats, an AFP reporter observed Friday.
Some wiped away tears. Others brought infants in pushchairs. Old soldiers stopped and gave one last salute to their former commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, in Cardiff, many had waited for hours ahead of Charles's visit.
“Something like this won’t happen again,“ said barman Jack Grimshaw, 27, who turned out with his young son.
“The royal family has been around for so many years (but) we didn’t have a new king for so long.”
Not everyone was happy to see the new monarch in Wales. Zahra Ameri, 22, said the funeral was a “waste of money”.
“I’m hoping that Wales becomes independent. Of course, it would be a disturbance in our economy because we do rely on the UK, but I strongly believe in independence,“ she said.-AFP