Biden in London: Queen Elizabeth II was ‘decent, honorable and all about service’


President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, visiting her coffin resting in London’s Westminster Hall and signing books of condolence at Lancaster House.

The President said on Sunday the Queen was “personally the same as her image – decent, honorable and all about service”.

“We had the opportunity to meet with a lot of important people. But I can say that those who stand out in your memory are those whose relationship and interactions with you are up to their reputation,” Biden said after signing a book of condolence Sunday night.

Biden, who has often spoken out about his own losses, also sent his condolences to the royal family and the UK at large, saying: “It’s a loss that leaves a huge hole and sometimes you’ll think you’ll never get over it.” . But as I told the king, she will accompany him wherever he goes.”

Biden said the queen reminded him of his late mother because of her mannerisms, saying, “She had this look, like, ‘Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you? What do you need?’ Also, ‘Make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.’”

Biden took the time to sign a lengthy note in the book of condolences. Signing a separate book of condolence for leading spouses at Lancaster House, Jill Biden wrote in part: “Queen Elizabeth II lived her life for the people she served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget their warmth, kindness and the conversations we had.”

The Bidens were previously joined by US Ambassador to the UK Jane Hartley during their visit to Westminster Hall. The President made the sign of the cross.

The Bidens are also attending a reception at Buckingham Palace on Sunday to visit foreign leaders welcomed by Britain’s new King Charles III.

The President arrived in London late Saturday for a two-day visit to honor the long-reigning monarch, who he says “defined an era”.

Biden is joining leaders from dozens of other nations to pay their respects to the late sovereign, whom he met last year and later said reminded him of his own mother.

For Biden, it’s a moment to reflect on a monarch who embodied a commitment to public service and whose life chronicled the major historical events of the past 100 years.

Biden and the Queen first met in 1982, when Biden’s own Irish-American mother instructed him as a young Senator, “Don’t bow to her.”

He didn’t bow then or when he met the Queen as President last year when he attended a G7 summit in England. But his respect for a woman whose steadiness on the world stage was unparalleled in the last century was clear.

“She was a great woman. We are so pleased that we got to meet her,” Biden said on the day of her death.

The Queen’s surprise decision last year to travel to the Cornish coast to meet world leaders at the G7 summit was a sign of her desire to remain engaged in global affairs.

Later that week, while inviting Biden and the first lady to tea at Windsor Castle, she inquired about two authoritarian leaders, Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, the president later told reporters.

“She was so curious. She wanted to know everything about American politics that was going on. So she put us at ease,” Jill Biden said in a recent interview with NBC.

At Sunday night’s reception, Biden sees Charles for the first time since becoming king. The two men have met before and spoke on the phone last week.

As Prince of Wales, Charles was a passionate campaigner for certain issues that Biden has also championed, including tackling climate change. It remains to be seen to what extent the new king will become involved in these issues in the future.

Of relatively similar age – Charles is 73, Biden is 79 – the two men share a common experience of being in the public eye for decades before assuming their current roles as heads of state.

In his call to the King, Biden “expressed the great admiration of the American people for the Queen, whose dignity and steadfastness have deepened the enduring friendship and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the White House said. “President Biden has expressed his desire to continue a close relationship with the king.”

Security in the British capital is at its highest ever as Biden and dozens of other leaders gather to commemorate the late Queen, who met 13 sitting US Presidents during her reign.

White House officials have declined to provide specific security details for the president’s visit but say they are working well with their British counterparts to ensure the president’s security requirements are met.

Plans for the Queen’s funeral have been in the air for years, giving US advisers better insight into the exact events of the coming days as they make security arrangements. The White House said it received only one invitation for the president and first lady, resulting in a slimmed-down American footprint.

Biden traveled to London with his national security adviser, communications director and other personal aides aboard Air Force One.

When reports surfaced last week that world leaders would have to take a bus to the funeral, US officials were skeptical and dismissed the suggestion that Biden would travel to Westminster Abbey by bus.

When other heads of state traveled together in a bus to a World War I memorial in Paris in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump traveled separately in his own vehicle. The White House said at the time that the separate trip was “due to security protocols.”

The Queen’s death came at a moment of economic and political turmoil for the United Kingdom. A new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, took office after months of uncertainty after her predecessor Boris Johnson decided to step down.

Truss invited several world leaders to a one-on-one meeting this weekend at 10 Downing Street. In her role, which she has been in for just over a week, it will be Truss’ first time meeting many of her overseas counterparts face-to-face.

While her office initially said Biden would be among leaders visiting Downing Street, it was later announced that Truss and the president would meet for formal bilateral talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

A host of issues are currently testing the “special relationship” between the US and Britain, which has been heralded repeatedly in the days since the Queen’s death.

Just two days after Truss traveled to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to formally accept the Queen’s appointment as Prime Minister, the long-serving monarch passed away. Since then, the country has been in a formal mourning period.

Truss has inherited a deep economic crisis, fueled by high inflation and rising energy costs, which has led to fears that Britain could soon slide into a prolonged recession. Challenges have been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has led to volatility in oil and gas markets.

While few in the Biden administration shed tears over Johnson’s resignation — Biden once described him as Trump’s “physical and emotional clone” — the US and UK were deeply united in their approach to Russia under his leadership.

White House officials expect the collaboration under Truss to continue even as she comes under pressure to ease economic pressures at home.

What is less certain, however, is whether Truss’s no-holds-barred approach to Brexit will affect relations with Biden. The President has a personal interest in the specific issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit regime requiring additional controls on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The rules were designed to keep the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland open and avoid a return to sectarian violence. But Truss has been pushing to rewrite those rules, prompting deep concern in both Brussels and Washington.

Biden, who frequently invokes his Irish ancestry, has made his views clear on the issue, although it does not directly affect the United States. Congress Democrats have also expressed concern about any moves that could reignite the Northern Ireland conflict.

In her first phone call as a counterpart earlier this month, Biden addressed the matter with Truss, the White House said. A US extract of their conversation said they discussed a “common commitment to protect the achievements of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the importance of a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

This article and headline have been updated.

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