King Charles welcomed to Wales amid cheers, protest

The public cheered for King Charles III in Wales on Friday, although some protested his ascension to the throne, as football king David Beckham joined a mile-long line to mourn the late Queen in London.

In Cardiff, Charles met in private with Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford, an outspoken Republican, and there was isolated booing in the streets after the new monarch quickly proclaimed his son William the new Prince of Wales.

But Drakeford said questions about the future of the monarchy would be “a footnote to the dominant sentiments of the day,” following the September 8 death of Queen Elizabeth II at the age of 96.

Crowds chanted “God save the king” as Charles shook hands with benefactors after a multi-faith service at Llandaff Cathedral and Cardiff Castle, on the last of his visits to the UK’s four nations.

In a speech to the Welsh Parliament, which was alternately English and Welsh, he vowed to follow the “selfless example” of Britain’s longest serving monarch.

Charles added that William’s “love for this corner of the earth has grown all the greater with the years he has spent here himself” – after his heir was trained as a Royal Air Force helicopter pilot in Anglesey.

Outside Cardiff Castle, a few protesters held up banners that read “Abolish the monarchy”, “Citizens not an issue” and “Democracy now”.

On his return to London, Charles would join his siblings – Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – for a family vigil in front of the flag-clad coffin as it stands in the state of London.

– Playing for the Queen –

The “Vigil of the Princes”, with all four royal members in ceremonial military uniform, lasts 15 minutes from 1830 GMT.

Eight of the Queen’s grandchildren, including William and his brother Harry, are expected to hold a similar vigil on Saturday night.

Elizabeth’s death has caused a torrent of emotions, with tens of thousands from all backgrounds and many countries queuing for hours, often all night, to pay their respects at Westminster Hall.

The queue was paused Friday after a park at the end of the line along the River Thames reached capacity, the government said, warning those at the end would have to wait 14 hours.

It resumed almost an hour later. Beckham, the footballer-turned-fashion icon, was out front in the afternoon after joining in the early hours of Friday.

“I thought it would be a bit quieter by coming at 2am – I was wrong,” Beckham told ITV News, as fans looking for selfies briefly lined up.

The ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid star said every time the national anthem – then titled “God Save the Queen” – was played at matches in England, “meaned so much to us”.

Another queue was Peter Stratford, 70, a former firefighter who was one of the first to arrive at the site of a massive 1992 fire at Windsor Castle, where the Queen will be buried on Monday.

“My ankles hurt me, but it’s a small sacrifice to make,” he told AFP after standing in line for eight hours.

“I was in tears, emotional … I wouldn’t have missed it.”

Monday morning, the Queen will be honored at Westminster Abbey with Britain’s first state funeral in nearly six decades, with more than 2,000 expected guests.

– Rowing with China –

After the televised service, the coffin will be transferred by royal hearse to Windsor Castle, west of London, for a family funeral in which the Queen will be buried next to 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 Japanese Emperor Naruhito and numerous other members of the royal family.

Police mount Britain’s largest security operation ever for the funeral, as global dignitaries pass the Queen’s casket around the clock all weekend.

Early Friday, two police officers were stabbed in central London, one of whom suffered “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 recumbent state following an intervention by House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, parliamentary sources said.

It comes after China has sanctioned several British lawmakers for criticizing the country’s human rights record.

“As a host, the British side must uphold diplomatic courtesy and gracious hospitality,” Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing.

Downing Street declined to comment.

– ‘Waste of the money’ –

At Westminster Hall, the somber atmosphere is completed with members of the Kingsguard in ceremonial uniform constantly watching around the stage.

Mourners marked their moment in front of the coffin in a variety of ways, from bows or bows to the sign of the cross or simply taking off their hats, an AFP reporter noted Friday.

Some wiped their tears. Others brought babies in strollers. Old soldiers stopped and saluted their former commander in chief.

Meanwhile, many in Cardiff had waited hours for Charles’s visit.

“Nothing like that will happen again,” said bartender Jack Grimshaw, 27, who came out with his young son.

“The royal family has been around for so many years (but) we haven’t had 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 hope Wales becomes independent. Of course it would be a disruption in our economy because we are dependent on the UK, but I strongly believe in independence,” she said.

AFP

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