LONDON. (CNN) — President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday, visited her coffin laid out in London’s Westminster Hall and signed condolences at Lancaster House.
The president said on Sunday that the Queen “in person was the same as her image – decent, honorable and all about service”.
“We’ve had the opportunity to meet an awful lot of people with a lot of consequences. But I can say that the ones that come to mind are the ones whose relationship and interaction with you is consistent with their reputation,” Biden said after signing an agreement. condolence register Sunday evening.
Biden, who has often spoken of his own losses, also expressed his condolences to the Royal Family and the entire UK, saying: “It’s a loss that leaves a huge hole, and sometimes you think you’ll never overcome it. But like I have told the king, she will be with him every step of the way.”
Biden said the Queen reminded him of his late mother because of her mannerisms, saying, “She had that look of, ‘Are you okay? Is there anything I can do for you? What do you need?’ Also: ‘Make sure you do what you have to do.'”
Biden took the time to sign a lengthy message in the condolence book, writing in part: “She treated everyone with dignity and respect. Jill and I were honored to have met her and to feel her warmth. Our hearts go out to the royal family and the people of the United Kingdom.”
Jill Biden, who told CNN on Sunday that she is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and respect she sees for the Queen in London, signed a separate book of condolence for the leader’s husbands at Lancaster House. She wrote in part, “Queen Elizabeth II lived her life for the people she served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”
The Bidens were joined earlier on their visit to Westminster Hall by Jane Hartley, the US Ambassador to the UK. The president was seen making the sign of the cross.
The Bidens also attended a reception at Buckingham Palace for visiting foreign leaders on Sunday night, hosted by Britain’s new King, Charles III.
Jill Biden told CNN that her conversations with Charles and the royal family at the reception were exclusively about the Queen.
“We really talked about the woman, and who she was, and what she really meant to the whole world,” Biden said, adding that she noted the human toll of grief on Charles.
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 joins leaders of dozens of other countries to pay their respects to the late sovereign, whom he met last year and later declared to remember him of his own mother.
For Biden, it is a moment to reflect on a monarch who embodied a commitment to public service and whose life charted the most significant 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 while attending a Group of 7 summit in England. But his respect for a woman whose fortitude on the world stage was unparalleled in the past century was clear.
“She was an amazing lady. We are so glad we met her,” Biden said on the day she died.
The Queen’s surprising decision last year to travel to the coast of Cornwall to meet world leaders at the G7 summit signaled her desire to remain involved in global affairs.
Later that week, when she received Biden and the first lady for 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.
“I loved her curiosity,” Jill Biden told CNN on Sunday of the time they spent alone with the Queen. “She wanted to know all about American politics, so she asked Joe question after question.”
At Sunday night’s reception, the president saw Charles for the first time since he became king. The two men have met before and spoke on the phone last week.
As Prince of Wales, Charles was a passionate campaigner for some of the issues Biden has also campaigned for, including fighting climate change. It remains to be seen how involved the new king will be in these issues.
Relatively close in age – Charles is 73, Biden is 79 – the two men have a shared experience of decades of being in the public eye before taking on their current role as head of state.
During his telephone conversation with the king, Biden conveyed “the American people’s great admiration for the queen, whose dignity and fortitude 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 the highest level in memory as Biden and dozens of other world leaders gather to remember 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 closely with their British counterparts to ensure presidential security requirements are met.
Plans for the Queen’s funeral have been in place for years, giving US advisers greater insight into exactly what will happen in the coming days as they make security arrangements. The White House said it received invitations only to the president and first lady, which reduced the American footprint.
Biden traveled to London with his national security adviser, communications director and other personal assistants aboard Air Force One.
When reports came out last week that world leaders should ride a bus to the funeral, US officials were skeptical and dismissed Biden’s suggestion to travel by coach to Westminster Abbey.
In 2018, when other world leaders traveled together in a bus to a World War I memorial in Paris, then-US President Donald Trump traveled separately in his own vehicle. The White House explained at the time that the separate trip was “due to security protocols.”
The Queen’s death came at a time of economic and political turmoil for the United Kingdom. A new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, took office after months of uncertainty following her predecessor Boris Johnson’s decision to resign.
Truss invited several visiting world leaders this weekend to meet individually at 10 Downing Street. In the role for just over a week, it will be the first time Truss will come face-to-face with many of her foreign colleagues.
While her office initially said Biden would be one of the leaders to visit Downing Street, it was later announced that Truss and the president would meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday for formal bilateral talks.
A host of issues are currently testing the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, which has been heralded repeatedly in the days since the Queen’s death.
It was only two days after Truss traveled to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to formally accept the Queen’s appointment as Prime Minister that the long-reigning monarch died. Since then, the country has been in a formal period of mourning.
Truss inherited a deep economic crisis, fueled by high inflation and rising energy costs, which has led to fears that the UK would soon be plunged into a prolonged recession. The challenges have been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has created volatility in oil and gas markets.
While few in the Biden administration wept at Johnson’s resignation — Biden once described him as Trump’s “physical and emotional clone” — the US and UK were deeply aligned in their approach to Russia under his leadership.
White House officials expect the partnership to continue under Truss, even as she comes under pressure to ease economic pressures at home.
Less certain, however, is whether Truss’s tough approach to Brexit will sour relations with Biden. The president has expressed personal interest in the specific issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a post-Brexit scheme that requires 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 prevent a return to sectarian violence. But Truss has moved to rewrite those rules, causing widespread unrest in both Brussels and Washington.
Biden, who frequently refers to his Irish ancestry, has made his views clear on the matter, even though the United States is not directly involved. Congressional Democrats have similarly expressed concern about any steps that could reignite the conflict in Northern Ireland.
In their first phone call as counterparts earlier this month, Biden raised the matter with Truss, according to the White House. A US readout of their conversation said they discussed a “shared commitment to protecting the benefits of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
This story and headline have been updated.
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