A parade of world leaders from all corners of the world is descending on London Monday to pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8 at the age of 96.
Approximately 500 heads of state, royals, and other foreign dignitaries have been invited to the state funeral, according to the Associated Press. Those gathering at Westminster Abbey to lay the Queen to rest include President Joe Biden and representatives from across the Commonwealth, including Australia’s leader Anthony Albanese, who provided transport for several Pacific leaders to attend. Hundreds of U.K. politicians, military veterans and British charity workers are also attending.
But not everyone made the guest list. The leaders of several countries were not invited, while others are choosing not to go.
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Diplomatic relations and public opinion are playing a role in the exclusion of some figures, though cost is also factor, as the Royal Family doesn’t want to be seen to be lavish, according to Cindy McCreery, a senior lecturer in history at the University of Sydney who specializes in monarchy and colonialism.
In August, the skyrocketing cost of food pushed shop price inflation to its highest level since 2005. On Friday, the pound hit a 37-year low against the U.S. dollar amid economic woes. The British government has not yet disclosed the bill for the funeral, but it is expected to cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Capacity is another constraint. McCreery adds that space in Westminster Abbey is limited to about 2,000 people. Besides family members and U.K. dignitaries, there is pressure to ensure people awarded U.K honors are able to attend, along with friends and employees of the Queen. “Before we consider who didn’t make the cut, we have to remember that the priority is to ensure that deserving people did.” For this reason, former U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump and Barack Obama, were invited to an alternative memorial service to take place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Several countries have not been invited to the Queen’s funeral
Representatives from Russia and Belarus were not invited to the Queen’s funeral over the invasion of Ukraine, so Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not be present. Russia’s foreign ministry criticized his missing invitation.
“We regard this attempt to use a national tragedy, which has touched the hearts of millions of people across the world, for geopolitical goals and to settle scores with our country as deeply immoral,” it said in a Sept. 15 press release. It added that London was “making divisive statements in furtherance of its opportunistic aims.”
Read More: Queen Elizabeth’s Passing Could Push Some Countries to Alter Their Ties to the British Monarchy
Myanmar’s leaders were also not invited, according to Reuters. The Southeast Asian nation’s military staged a coup in 2021, overthrowing the democratically-elected government and overseeing a violent crackdown on dissenters.
The BBC says North Korea, Iran and Nicaragua have been asked to send ambassadors but representatives from Syria, Venezuela, and Afghanistan didn’t get an invite. McCreery points out that the U.K. doesn’t have full diplomatic relations with the latter countries.
Some leaders invited to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral have declined
Others have RSVP-ed no. Chinese President Xi Jinping was invited to the funeral, according to the BBC, but he’s sending Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan instead.
There were reports that a Chinese delegation was prevented from paying respects to the Queen as she lay in state at Westminster Hall. Now Wang’s attendance has prompted criticism from a group of British Conservative members of parliament who were banned from China after the U.K. sanctioned four Chinese officials over alleged rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Xi’s priorities lie elsewhere. He made a trip last week to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, where he attended a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional security and trading bloc whose other members are India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
“Being able to be with friends who will pay homage to him is much more important than engaging with a major Western democracy and with other world leaders,” says Steve Tsang, the director of SOAS China Institute at the University of London. “Xi can effectively set the tune for the SCO meetings but will have to follow British protocols at the Queen’s state funeral. He can’t see a reason to do that,” he adds.
Read More: What to Know About Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, who met the Queen in 2014 in Rome, won’t attend the ceremony. Instead, Vatican diplomat Archbishop Paul Gallagher will go, according to the Vatican.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending, according to the Guardian. The country’s president, Droupadi Murmu, is representing India instead. The day of the Queen’s death, before her poor condition was widely reported, Modi gave a speech in which he called for India to shed its colonial ties.
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was invited but is not expected to attend. Human rights groups had criticized the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler because of his involvement in the murder of government critic and journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia is expected to be represented by Prince Turki bin Mohammed al Saud, a minister of state and a member of the cabinet, according to Reuters.
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