Biden, other VIPs lie low as spotlight stays on late Queen

Sep 18, 2022, 9:05 PM | Updated: Sep 20, 2022, 10:08 am
US President Joe Biden, center, and First Lady Jill Biden arrive for the funeral service of Queen E...

US President Joe Biden, center, and First Lady Jill Biden arrive for the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in central London, Monday Sept. 19, 2022. The Queen, who died aged 96 on Sept. 8, will be buried at Windsor alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year. (Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)

(Dominic Lipinski/Pool via AP)

LONDON (AP) — American presidents usually make a splash when they travel abroad, holding the spotlight and quickly becoming the center of attention.

Not this time.

For U.S. President Joe Biden and other presidents, prime ministers and dignitaries, there were no red-carpet arrivals, no big speeches and no news conferences as they gathered for Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II. Instead, world leaders used to people hanging on their every word checked their egos in the service of honoring the queen, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who died earlier this month at age 96 after 70 years on the throne.

“They know that they are there to honor the passing, honor the individual,” said Capricia Marshall, who was the U.S. State Department’s protocol chief for a period during Barack Obama’s administration. “They also are aware that they’re representing their country.”

The protocol office is a key player in U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic affairs, working to make sure U.S. officials don’t say or do anything that will offend a foreign visitor or host.

The president and first lady were among some 2,000 people attending the funeral at Westminster Abbey. The couple arrived for the funeral, waiting in the back as a procession moved past, before taking their seats among hundreds of others. They arrived in London late Saturday and paid respects to the queen on Sunday, viewing her coffin at Westminster Hall, signing condolence books at Lancaster House and attending a Buckingham Palace reception for funeral guests hosted by King Charles III.

But the president’s public appearances in London have been limited and controlled, part of the choreography around the elaborate farewell to the only monarch most Britons have ever known. He spoke only for just a few minutes Sunday about the queen, as he recalled how the woman he said reminded him of his mother kept feeding him crumpets when they had tea together last year at Windsor Castle.

When Biden spoke to the BBC, the only outlet broadcasting live as he signed the condolence book, the network kept up a split screen with Sir David Manning, a former British ambassador to the U.S., and did not air Biden’s comments live.

Most other leaders in town have kept similarly low profiles, appearing only to sign the official book of condolence and silently pay respects at the queen’s coffin in Westminster Hall.

A few have given interviews to share memories of Elizabeth, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told the BBC about the advice the queen gave her on balancing work and motherhood: “I remember she just said, ‘Well, you just get on with it,’ and that was actually probably the best and most I think factual advice I could have.”

Leaders like Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese have batted away questions about whether their countries are likely to become republics, saying now is not the time to discuss it. Both countries have the queen as their monarch.

An exception was Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for reelection and delivered an open-air campaign speech Sunday outside his country’s embassy in London. Bolsonaro, who trails former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in opinion polls, insisted to about 200 supporters that the polls were wrong and that he could avoid entering a runoff on Oct. 2.

Biden and new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss scrapped a weekend meeting in favor of a more robust sit-down next week during the U.N. General Assembly, and the White House didn’t even announce news of the meeting until after British officials had.

One senior U.S. official said Biden’s lower profile was less about protocol and more about the fact that “it’s not our show. It’s the Brits’ show.” The U.S. has to be sensitive to that, said the official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Peter Selfridge, another former U.S. official, said Biden is in London “to grieve” and likely does not care that he has largely been out of the spotlight. Selfridge noted the president’s history of personal loss, including the death of his first wife and infant daughter and, later, an adult son.

“As a matter of fact, that’s probably the way he wants it,” said Selfridge, the U.S. chief of protocol during Obama’s second term.

Then again, some people’s wiring doesn’t allow them to avoid making a beeline for the first camera they see, said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis management expert.

But Dezenhall said in an email that the “good news is that most American presidents … understand that humility is called for at certain times.”


Associated Press writers Jill Lawrence in London and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, speak at a...
Associated Press

German gas price plan exposes EU divisions over energy

BRUSSELS (AP) — Germany’s plan to spend billions of euros to help keep gas prices low for its consumers and businesses has received a tepid welcome from fellow European Union members, with some worrying that the measure could exacerbate the energy crisis. With a recession looming, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said last week that his government […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Biden consults Japan PM Kishida after N. Korea missile test

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Tuesday spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss their next steps after North Korea conducted its longest ever test launch by firing a nuclear-capable ballistic missile over Japan. The White House in a statement said the leaders condemned North Korea’s missile test in the “strongest terms, […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

3rd Iowa teen takes plea deal in killing near high school

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A third teenager charged with murder in a drive-by shooting death of a 15-year-old boy outside a Des Moines high school in March has agreed to plead guilty to lesser crimes. The plea agreement accepted by a state court judge on Monday may allow Gumaro Marquez-Jacobo, 18, to avoid prison […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Seattle Sounders' Clint Dempsey is shown during an MLS soccer match against the Philadelphia...
Associated Press

Donovan, Dempsey to broadcast World Cup in US for Fox

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Landon Donovan is teaming with Clint Dempsey again at a World Cup. The pair, who share the American record of 57 international goals, will work for Fox at this year’s tournament in Qatar. Donovan is paired with Ian Darke on one of five play-by-play teams. He joins Dempsey, hired last spring […]
11 hours ago
FILE - A sign is pictured outside the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, Monday, April 25, 2022...
Associated Press

Report: Musk proposes going ahead with deal to buy Twitter

Trading in shares of Twitter was halted after the stock spiked on reports that Elon Musk would proceed with his $44 billion deal to buy the company after months of legal battles. Musk offered to buy the San Francisco company at $54.20. Shares jumped nearly 13% to $47.95 before trading stopped. Bloomberg News reported Tuesday […]
11 hours ago
A middle school football team practices Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022, in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma has a...
Associated Press

Oklahoma sports ‘biological sex affidavit’ raises questions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — J.D. Runnels and his son, James, share a love for football. Runnels played for the University of Oklahoma and in the National Football League, and he coached in the United States Football League this past season. His son plays center for Southridge Middle School’s eighth-grade team in Moore, an Oklahoma City […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Biden, other VIPs lie low as spotlight stays on late Queen