U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II Monday, joining world leaders, the royal family and a small group of invited guests at a somber, pomp-filled funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey that celebrated her 70 years of service as Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
The Bidens arrived late Saturday for the event and have kept a low profile in the British capital, holding no official diplomatic meetings and keeping their public comments to the topic of the queen’s recent death September 8 at the age of 96.
White House officials told VOA before the funeral that Washington’s strong ties to London will continue after the recent change in leadership — which includes the new king, Charles III, and the recently installed prime minister, Liz Truss. Biden will meet with Truss Wednesday in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are confident that with King Charles and with Prime Minister Truss that the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain will endure, we’re not worried about that at all,” National Security Council director of strategic communications John Kirby told VOA.
On Sunday, Biden and his wife paid their respects as the queen’s body lay in state at Westminster Hall, where tens of thousands lined up for hours to pass by her elaborately draped casket, which also bore the Imperial State Crown, orb and scepter — a priceless and instantly recognizable piece capped by the massive, glittering Star of Africa diamond, a 530-carat stone given to the Crown by then-colony South Africa, in 1907.
On Sunday, the Bidens also signed condolence books, and the president praised the queen for her legacy of selfless duty.
“I think what she gave us is a sense of, maybe above all, the notion of service, that we all owe something,” he said. “There’s something within our capacity to do that can make things — not just the world better, but your neighborhood better, your household better, your workplace better. And that’s what she communicated to me anyway.”
The king also hosted a formal state reception for dignitaries Sunday, which Biden attended.
The British crown has extended a controversial funeral invitation to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is widely believed to be responsible for ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. They did not invite the leaders of Russia, Belarus, Syria, Afghanistan or Venezuela.
Elizabeth will be buried privately later on Monday at St. George’s Chapel within the grounds of Windsor Castle, next to her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip.