Editor’s note: Frida Ghitis, (@fridaghitis) is a former CNN producer and correspondent, world affairs columnist. He is a weekly columnist for CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a columnist for World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own. See more reviews on CNN.
Whether you think of the monarchy, the late Queen Elizabeth II or the new King Charles III, there is no doubt that Monday’s royal funeral will live in the annals of history. Probably millions of people will see it. For commuters, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s why invitations to ceremonies have become the hottest ticket on Earth.
Apart from the shiny uniforms, solemn salutes and meticulously choreographed ceremonies, something else is happening in London: around 500 world leaders and dignitaries are coming to England to show off their fame, but also to see and be seen for sure. be one of the largest gatherings of its kind in the history of the world.
Like any assembly of world leaders, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, beyond the official events. Funerals provide a unique opportunity for conversations about urgent matters. At a time like this, when global crises are happening, it is an opportunity to strategize and play on the side.
There are so many guests that the list is the most prominent, the most sparse, the most conspicuously omitted. At the head of that small group, according to CNN sources, is Russian President Vladimir Putin, a global pariah since his invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s ally, authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is also excluded, as are representatives of Myanmar, ruled by a military junta since a 2021 coup that derailed the march to democracy.
Invited but not expected to attend, Chinese media reported, is Chinese President Xi Jinping, another hotly debated leader. Xi had not traveled outside China since the start of the pandemic until this week, when he met Putin in Uzbekistan. The Chinese Vice President is expected to attend. The Chinese delegation, according to the BBC, was forbidden to see the casket in the Westminster Hall.
For the royals, presidents and prime ministers in attendance, the event is an opportunity to burnish their place in history that will be the focus of the planet for a few hours. When funeral films are watched decades from now, they will be there.
But it’s not just the future. The present will also occupy the mind.
For some, it’s a chance to try to bask in the grandeur of the moment, and maybe capture some of the magic for themselves. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, for example, who is battling in the polls ahead of a bitter presidential race, surely wouldn’t mind seeing voters at home on a solemn stage alongside world leaders. In addition to attending, he has been acting in British drama.
Between bows, curtseys and handshakes, the dignitaries will have the opportunity to speak. The leaders of NATO and the European Union, for example, concerned about Russian aggression, will find themselves in the same place with the opportunity to exchange views face-to-face.
Among those reported by various media to attend will be the leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that have lived in Moscow’s shadow and have urged the world to stand firm against Putin.
Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, will also be present at the state funeral, who emotionally declared that “the queen of the 16 kingdoms loved France, who loved her back”. Macron is in regular talks with Putin, seeking a — sometimes controversial — way to end the war. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, often a difficult NATO ally, may or may not attend the funeral, based on conflicting reports. The meeting, along with leaders of other NATO nations, including US President Joe Biden, could create an opportunity to iron out some differences, especially as winter approaches and Europe prepares to face the cold without Russia’s gas heating.
For the rest of us watching the day’s events, the official guests will provide eye-popping scenes. The ceremonies will take us back in time to the rituals of the century, but the presence of royalty and dignitaries from around the world, many from former British colonies, should provide unforgettable images, even more travel through time, for days. the world was ruled by unelected hereditary monarchs.
We will see more kings and queens than ever before. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito will also attend with his wife, Empress Masako, according to the Japan Times. Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Jordan and the kings Tongaamong others, it will be there, according to reports.
King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands will do so, along with his Argentinian wife, Queen Maxima, and his mother, Princess Beatrix, the former queen. Perhaps King Charles, who had to wait until he was 73 to inherit the throne, will look at him with envy. Beatrix, unlike Elizabeth, abdicated to her then 46-year-old son nine years ago. At the time, he said: “I am convinced that the responsibility of our country must be passed on to the next generation.”
Speaking of moving, the manner in which dignitaries arrive at Westminster Abbey will attract attention. Moving so many important (and self-important) figures through the streets of a city full of benefactors and onlookers is a huge logistical and security challenge. Last week, British officials told world leaders they would will not be accepted to use private planes, private cars or helicopters. Instead, they were informed that they would have to take a bus in groups to get to the Abbey, Politico reported.
The reaction was almost immediate. The Prime Minister’s spokesman pushed back, saying the plan was just “for atmosphere” and not a mandate. The instructions, apparently, were never intended for Biden, for example, who, according to the great American tradition, will cross the streets in that massive bulletproof vehicle “The Beast”.
The rule is still vague.
The problem may be the consequence. Those watching from former British colonies, especially those thinking about a British monarch as head of state, will be concerned if their own countries’ leaders do not treat them with respect in London.
The day will be filled with bitterness and applause, tears and smiles. But there will also be drama and, behind the scenes, also the substance. With what is expected to be the most watched broadcast of all time, it’s no surprise that the chance to see it live is the hottest ticket on Earth.