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Biden pays respects at Queen's coffin

September 18, 2022

The US president and his wife Jill are in Britain for the funeral of the country's longest reigning monarch. Hundreds of thousands of people have filed past the Queen's coffin, lying in state in Westminster Hall.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden (right) view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, in London on September 18, 2022
US President Joe Biden paid tribute at Queen Elizabeth's coffin ahead of her funeral on MondayImage: Joe Giddens/REUTERS

US President Joe Biden on Sunday paid his respects at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, a day ahead of her state funeral.

The body of Britain's longest reigning monarch has been lying in state at the historic Westminster Hall in London since Wednesday.

How did the Bidens pay their respects?

Biden, accompanied by his wife Jill, took his place on the balcony overlooking the Queen's coffin.

He made the sign of the cross before briefly placing his hand on his heart as he stood quietly near the casket.

The Bidens were joined by US Ambassador Jane Hartley.

Later, as he signed the official condolence book, Biden described the late Queen as "decent ... honorable" and "all about service."

The US president is one of hundreds of world leaders in London to pay their respects to the Queen, who died on September 8 at 96 after 70 years on the throne.

Biden was one of the 14 US presidents in office during her reign, of which Elizabeth met all except Lyndon Johnson, starting with Harry Truman in 1951 when she was still a princess.

Hundreds of thousands of people have descended on the UK capital to pay their tribute to a head of state they saw as the only constant in an era of continual change.

People from all walks of life and from around the country and overseas have queued for several hours to file past her coffin in a constant, emotional stream.

The government advised people against traveling to join the queue before the line closes later on Sunday.

Mourning Queen Elizabeth II

Line to see lying in state closed

The queue to see Queen Elizabeth's lying in state is closed as of late on Sunday. UK officials said it was at "final capacity."

"Please do not attempt to join the queue," the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport tweeted.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lined up for a chance to file past the late queen's coffin during the lying in state, with wait times of up to 12 hours in the miles-long queue.

King Charles to host world leaders

The Bidens will later join King Charles III and other leaders from around the globe for a reception at Buckingham Palace on Sunday evening ahead of the state funeral the next day.

A minute of national silence was held at 8 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Sunday, marked by the striking of Big Ben, which towers over Westminster Hall. 

In his final message before the late queen's funeral, King Charles thanked the public for the support shown towards Britain's royal family.

"As we all prepare to say our last farewell, I wanted simply to take this opportunity to say thank you to all those countless people who have been such a support and comfort to my family and myself in this time of grief," the king said in a statement from Buckingham Palace.

Last-minute funeral preparations  

London's Metropolitan police have described Monday's funeral ceremony as the biggest security operation it has ever undertaken.

Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans representing nearly 200 countries and territories will attend the service.

However, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is no longer attending, according to a British government source, who said the change was made by Riyadh.

Leaders from Russia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and North Korea were not invited.

China will attend the service but was barred by parliamentary leaders from the lying-in-state.

As well as the 2,000 invited guests, people have begun camping out to secure positions on the procession route and near Westminster Abbey.

The venue has marked the coronations, weddings and burials of English and then British kings and queens since William I in 1066.

Britain has not held a state funeral on the scale planned for the Queen since that for World War Two leader Winston Churchill in 1965.

mm/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)