The U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, have arrived at Westminster Abbey in London for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate the “special relationship” with the late monarch.
President Biden is one of many heads of state from around the world attending the service for Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
The queen died on September 8, aged 96 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, only months after celebrating her Platinum Jubilee to mark 70 years on the throne.
The Bidens looked solemn as they entered the abbey holding hands. The first lady wore a black, Chanel-inspired pencil skirt suit with a matching fascinator, and the president chose a black suit, with a black tie and white handkerchief in his jacket pocket.
On their arrival to London, the president and his wife visited the queen’s coffin as she lay in state at Westminster Hall. They had also signed the official condolence book before attending a function at Buckingham Palace hosted by King Charles III on Sunday night.
President Biden was one of the few world leaders to arrive in his own transport after funeral organizers said that heads of state must travel together by bus for security reasons.
He traveled to Westminster Abbey in an armored vehicle, known as “The Beast,” but ran into some trouble on the way to the funeral.
Traffic was at a standstill in London, with the president’s motorcade getting stuck near to Marble Arch.
President Biden waved to onlookers who had lined the streets, as The Beast slowly crawled through the English capital.
Biden was the final serving US president during Elizabeth’s reign, and she met her first president, Harry S Truman, while still a princess.
The queen managed to meet all 13 of the 14 presidents during her reign, except for Lyndon B. Johnson, who was in the White House from 1963 to 1969.
After signing the condolence book at Lancaster House, President Biden described the queen as “honest” and “decent.”
“To all the people of England, all the people of the United Kingdom, our hearts go out to you,” Biden said.
“You were fortunate to have had her for 70 years. We all were. The world is better for her.”
Biden also told the queen’s successor, King Charles III, that his mother’s “dignity and constancy deepened the enduring friendship and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
The Bidens have a long-standing relationship with many members of the royal family.
President Biden first encountered the queen when he was still a senator in 1982, and in June 2021, Elizabeth met him for the first time since he became president, welcoming him and his wife at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” the president said to media after the visit.
“She’s extremely gracious, that’s not surprising, but we had a great talk.”
During that June 2021 visit, the Bidens also met with the then-Prince Charles, his wife Camilla and eldest son, Prince William, at a G7 reception.
The first lady also got some one-on-one time with Catherine, Princess of Wales, when they visited the Connor Downs Academy preschool in Hayle, England, to speak with early-childhood educators.
“It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” Catherine told Dr. Biden, the first lady, who had been a classroom teacher and university professor. “I’m very much looking forward to the conversation.”
The first lady also has a great relationship with Prince Harry, and they have worked together many times, including on the Warrior Games in 2013.
The event sees injured U.S. military veterans competing in athletics as a way to support them, their families and caregivers.
Harry has led the international equivalent, the Invictus Games, a project he has been very passionate about and which was inspired by the Warrior Games.
Dr. Biden traveled to London for the inaugural Invictus Games in 2014 as the second lady during Biden’s term as vice president under Barack Obama.
She also attended the games in 2016 and 2017, leading Biden to say about the close relationship with the Duke of Sussex.
“I read in the Guardian, or one of [the newspapers], and it says — I’m paraphrasing — ‘everywhere Prince Harry went, he had this blonde woman on his arm.’ The vice-president’s wife! I’m a little worried here, you know what I mean?” President Biden said at the time.
The 2020 Invictus Games were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a virtual event was held that Dr. Biden attended. “You live by a simple principle: ‘Serve together, recover together,'” she said to Prince Harry.
“It’s a philosophy not limited by the flag you wave… you’ve dedicated your time, talents and heart to lifting up service members from around the globe.
“In fact, it’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since the first Invictus Games in London,” said Dr. Biden. “The memories of it are still so fresh in my mind. Every race and game more thrilling than the last.”