President Joe Biden said Thursday he plans to attend the funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch he is remembering as a “great lady.”
“Yes,” Biden told reporters Friday when asked whether he planned to attend the funeral, details of which have not been announced by Buckingham Palace.
“I don’t know what the details are yet but I will be going,” Biden said in Ohio, where he was traveling for the groundbreaking of a computer chip factory.
Earlier Friday, Britain’s new King Charles III said during a televised address that services for his late mother would occur later this month.
“In a little over a week’s time we will come together as a nation, as a Commonwealth and indeed a global community, to lay my beloved mother to rest,” Charles said in the speech, his first as king.
Biden told reporters in Ohio he’d not yet spoken to Charles following the Queen’s death.
“I know him. I haven’t spoken to him. I did not call him yet,” Biden said.
On Friday, White House aides had begun making initial preparations for Biden to travel to London to attend the Queen’s funeral. They had only planned to announce his attendance after the palace reveals the arrangements, according to people familiar with the matter.
The President will likely be accompanied by an official delegation. Biden remembered the Queen on Thursday as a “great lady” who “defined an era.”
“We’re so delighted we got to meet her,” Biden told staff at the British Embassy in Washington after signing a condolence book.
American flags at the White House, other federal buildings, military facilities and embassies overseas remained at half-staff Friday after Biden ordered them lowered “until the day of internment.”
In a statement released jointly with his wife, first lady Jill Biden, the President called the Queen “a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her.”
As a young senator, Biden met the Queen in 1982. They met again last year, when she made the journey to a Group of 7 summit in Cornwall.
Later, she hosted the Bidens at Windsor Castle for tea, where she asked the President about Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, two authoritarians who have caused tensions through military aggression.
Biden was effusive afterward in describing their interaction.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” Biden said. “She’s extremely gracious, that’s not surprising, but we had a great talk.”
The White House has declined to expand on Biden’s plans for attending the Queen’s funeral, which is expected in the coming weeks.
“There’s a process, there’s a protocol here, official protocol through which leaders are invited, so we are not going to get ahead of that protocol,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.
Pressed again, she reiterated the White House will follow protocol, but added that the Queen’s loss “will be felt by people around the world,” calling her a “steady presence.”
“Our nations and people have a strong bond and I think I speak for the country when I say our thoughts are with the people of the United Kingdom,” Jean-Pierre said.
The last time a British monarch died, the US president did not attend the funeral. President Harry S. Truman dispatched his secretary of state Dean Acheson to attend George VI’s funeral in 1952.
For recent high-profile funerals, official US delegations have included both current and former US presidents. When Pope John Paul II died, President George W. Bush attended with his father, President George H.W. Bush, and former President Bill Clinton.
President Barack Obama included George W. Bush, Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter in the official delegation to Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Bush traveled with him to South Africa aboard Air Force One, along with Hillary Clinton.
Former presidents are not expecting to receive individual funeral invitations from Buckingham Palace, according to two people familiar with protocol, with the expectation that the US will get one official invitation through the White House.
This means Biden will ultimately decide who will join his official delegation to the funeral ceremonies in the United Kingdom. No decisions will be made until a formal invitation is made from the palace, a White House official said, even as preliminary discussions are already taking place.
The question is how former President Donald Trump fits into the picture. While he remembered the Queen this week as a “grand and beautiful lady,” Trump has often been either intentionally absent – or purposefully excluded – from meetings of the so-called Presidents Club.
The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II will be the latest test for how this delicate matter of diplomacy should be handled.