Joe Biden and his wife Jill arrived in the UK on Saturday to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, whom the US president described as “more than a monarch” and a woman who “defined an era”.
Nearly 100 presidents and heads of government are due to attend the Queen’s state funeral on Monday, and the Bidens were traveling without any former US presidents.
The Bidens, who joined the Queen for tea in June 2021, arrived in Air Force One at London Stansted Airport just before 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET) on Saturday.
On Sunday, they are due to pay their respects to the late sovereign, whose coffin rests in Westminster Hall. Then they will sign an official book of condolences before attending a reception hosted by King Charles.
The White House had said earlier this week that the royal invitation to the funeral, which takes place at Westminster Abbey, was for the Bidens only.
However, other members of the president’s entourage include National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon and Oval Office Operations Director Annie Tomasini.
Ahead of the funeral, world leaders were advised against using their own vehicles to attend the event and were instead advised to use commercial flights and will be transported to the funeral venues via buses.
However, the travel protocol will not apply to the Bidens. The president and his wife are expected to arrive at the funeral in “The Beast”, the president’s armored car. Another leader who got a similar exception is Israeli President Isaac Herzog because he will be allowed to bring his own vehicles, Politico reported.
The “two-tier” system has been criticized by various world leaders and their staff members for demanding similar treatment, citing a variety of reasons, including old age and security concerns.
On Saturday, Downing Street also confirmed that a scheduled weekend meeting with President Biden and Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss will now take place at the UN in New York on Wednesday.
Downing Street did not provide further details on why the meeting with Biden was called off, but it would have taken place amid disputes over the Northern Ireland protocol and difficulties working on a trade deal. with the White House.
The queen, who died on September 8 after 70 years of reign, had met with several American presidents, including, in recent years, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George W Bush. She has met 13 of the last 14 US presidents, all but Lyndon Johnson and starting with Harry Truman in 1951 when she was still a princess.
Biden, 79, said the Queen reminded him of his mother. Last week, Biden said of the Queen: “In an ever-changing world, she was a constant presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, many of whom have never known their country without she.”
The president knows grief deeply, having lost his adult son to cancer in 2015 and his wife and young daughter in a car crash decades ago.
The president will return to Washington on Monday after the funeral.
Earlier this week, the US and UK governments played down suggestions that Biden could be banned from using a helicopter and forced to travel by bus when he and world leaders gather in London.