US President Biden and first lady remember Queen Elizabeth

Bidens paid their respects to late monarch on Sunday at Westminster Hall, where she had been lying in state

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden enter Westminster Abbey for the state funeral and burial of Queen Elizabeth. AFP
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For US President Joe Biden, it was the crumpets. For his wife, first lady Jill Biden, it was the tea.

The Bidens on Sunday helped honour Queen Elizabeth II by sharing memories of their visit to Windsor Castle, near London.

The president, who said after that 2021 visit that the queen reminded him of his late mother, recalled on Sunday that she kept offering him crumpets. He did not refuse.

“I kept eating everything she put in front of me,” he said. “But she was the same in person as … her image: decent, honourable and all about service.”

The queen, who was Britain’s longest-serving monarch, died earlier this month after a 70-year reign. Mr Biden is among hundreds of heads of state and other dignitaries who are in London to attend her state funeral service on Monday at Westminster Abbey.

The first lady told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after she and the president attended a reception at Buckingham Palace that “what really impressed me” about the queen was “just how warm and gracious she was”.

“I loved her sense of curiosity. She wanted to know all about American politics and so she asked Joe question after question,” Ms Biden said.

She said sitting in the queen's living room was “almost like being, you know, with your grandmother”.

“And she said, ‘Let me pour the tea,’ and we said, ‘No, no, let us help,’ and she said ‘Oh, no, no, no, I’ll get this. You sit down,’” she said. “And it was just a very special moment with a very special woman.”

The Bidens paid their respects to the queen on Sunday when they travelled to Westminster Hall, where she has been lying in state, to stand before the monarch’s coffin in the presence of thousands of mourners who had spent hours upon hours waiting to file past.

They then signed condolence books at Lancaster House before going to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by King Charles III and other royal family members for the world leaders who had flown in for the funeral.

After signing the book, Mr Biden said his heart goes out to the royal family because the queen’s death has left it with a “giant hole”.

“Sometimes you think … you’ll never overcome it,” said Mr Biden, who often speaks in very personal terms about loss following the death of his first wife and infant daughter, and later an adult son.

“But as I’ve told the king, she’s going to be with him every step of the way — every minute, every moment. And that’s a reassuring notion.”

While viewing the coffin on Sunday, the first lady said she watched a little boy dressed in a Boy Scout uniform come in and give the queen a three-finger salute.

“I mean, it just gave me a lump in my throat,” she said, and showed “how much the people really loved their queen, no matter their ages”.

Mr Biden wrote in the condolence book that the queen “was admired around the world for her unwavering commitment to service”.

The first lady signed a separate condolence book for spouses and ambassadors, writing: “Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people. She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”

Speaking of Charles, Ms Biden told AP: “He is the king, but no one should forget, he lost his mother and, you know, Prince William lost a grandmother. Sometimes we tend to forget the really human piece of this and the sorrow that they … have to bear and how they have to grieve in public. But they seem to be doing OK.”

More than 2,000 people were expected at Westminster Abbey for Monday’s funeral.

Updated: September 19, 2022, 4:45 PM