Biden pays respects to Elizabeth as Britain gets ready for funeral

Published September 19, 2022
First Lady Jill Biden looks on as US President Joe Biden signs a book of condolence at Lancaster House, London, on Sunday.—AFP
First Lady Jill Biden looks on as US President Joe Biden signs a book of condolence at Lancaster House, London, on Sunday.—AFP

LONDON: President Joe Biden of the United States paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth on Sunday as Britain geared up for giving a befitting farewell to the country’s longest-reigning monarch, who died on Sept 8 aged 96.

Biden praised her dignity and dedication to service after he appeared at the queen’s lying-in-state in Westminster.

Biden is among the scores of dignitaries and royals from across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas who will attend Monday’s funeral.

Hundreds of thousands of people have descended on London to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne in 1952.

“She was the same in person as her image: decent, honourable and all about service,” Biden said after he signed a book of condolence. “Our hearts go out to the royal family.”

PM Shehbaz condoles with King Charles over queen’s demise

Biden earlier appeared on a balcony overlooking the queen’s coffin in the vast Westminster Hall, making a sign of the cross and briefly placing his hand on his heart in reverence.

Elizabeth’s body has been lying in state since Wednesday and people from all walks of life and from around the country and overseas have queued for hours to file past her coffin in a constant, emotional stream.

The US president joined King Charles and other leaders from around the globe for a reception on Sunday evening ahead of the grand state funeral.

Joe Biden was one of the 14 US presidents in office during the queen’s 70-year reign, of which Elizabeth met all except Lyndon Johnson, starting with Harry Truman in 1951 when she was still a princess.

He will join presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans representing nearly 200 countries and territories at the funeral.

French President Emmanuel Macron was seen walking near the River Thames earlier on Sunday, mingling with those gathered in the streets around parliament.

Liz Truss, who the queen appointed as Britain’s prime minister just two days before her death, took the opportunity to meet leaders from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and Poland over the weekend.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, however, is no longer expected to attend, according to a British government source. Inviting the man Western leaders suspect ordered the murder in 2018 of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been controversial. He has denied any role in the killing. The change was made by Saudi Arabia, the source added.

Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son, paid tribute to “Mummy, Mother, Your Majesty” on Sunday, reflecting the roles he said Elizabeth fulfilled during her reign.

“Mummy, your love for a son, your compassion, your care, your confidence, I will treasure forever,” he said. —Reuters

Our Correspondent in London adds: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday met King Charles III during a reception hosted by the latter for the visiting dignitaries.

Extending condolences over the passing of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, the prime minister observed that the late monarch was a source of inspiration and strength for generations of Commonwealth citizens.

PM Sharif recalled that the people of Pakistan had fond memories of Her Majesty’s two visits to the country. The bond of affection between the royal family and the Pakistani nation had only strengthened with time, he added.

On behalf of the people and government of Pakistan, the prime minister conveyed best wishes to King Charles on his accession to the throne and expressed the hope that he would carry on the legacy of his mother in further strengthening friendship among Commonwealth nations. “The people of Pakistan hold His Majesty in high esteem and look forward to welcoming him in Pakistan at the earliest opportunity.”

The prime minister also thanked the British monarch for the royal family’s expression of sympathy and support in the wake of unprecedented floods.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2022

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