Joe Biden and the First Lady were greeted by Queen Elizabeth Sunday at Windsor Castle, where they were given a formal military welcome, followed by a decidedly more informal British tradition—an afternoon cup of tea.
In gorgeous afternoon sunshine, the queen emerged from the Sovereign’s Entrance of Windsor Castle at exactly 1705 local time (1205 EST) and precisely three minutes later, she greeted the Bidens in the shade of an elegant tent set up in castle’s quadrangle, as part of what looks certain to be the biggest set piece image of Biden’s visit to Europe.
The Bidens had touched down a mere 15 minutes earlier on Marine One, having boarded the chopper at London’s Heathrow airport, whence they had flown from the G7 summit in Cornwall in Airforce One. They were treated to a selection of American-themed musical performances by the band of the Grenadier Guards including John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever, while they waited the appropriate moment to enter the quadrangle.
The queen, wearing a floral pink dress and matching hat, looked on sparkling form, smiling broadly and chatting with Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden, in marked contrast to the stiff formality that pervaded the atmosphere when she greeted Donald Trump at the same venue in 2018 and again at London’s Buckingham Palace in 2019.
On both those occasions, there were street protests against Trump; by comparison, today’s crowds in Windsor seemed entirely supportive of the new president, although as all the activity was taking place inside the curtain wall of Britain’s most picturesque castle, there was little for them to see other than Marine One flying overhead.
The Guard of Honor to salute the Bidens was assembled of the Queen’s Company First Battalion Grenadier Guards. They gave a traditional royal salute and the American national anthem was also played.
Biden wore a dark suit and the First Lady wore a lavender blue jacket and dress suit.
Biden, accompanied by senior British military officers, was then invited to inspect the Guard of Honor, a tradition going back to the middle ages. As he toured the troops, to the accompaniment of The Star Spangled Banner, Her Majesty leaned towards Dr. Biden and appeared to engage her in small talk.
There then followed an extravagant display of marching and salutes, the Grenadier Guards’ crimson jackets making a vivid contrast to the green sward of the lawn underneath a perfect blue sky.
Sunday’s welcome of the visiting president marked yet another high profile public duty for the queen following the death of her husband, Prince Philip, in April, aged 99. It was actually the third time she had met Joe Biden; she met him at the G7 reception on Friday but they also met in 1982 when he was the Democratic senator for Delaware.
The queen met Harry S. Truman in 1951 before she ascended to the throne and has since then met every president except Lyndon B. Johnson.
After the military formalities were over, the queen and the Bidens entered the cool of the castle for tea. Their conversation will remain private, however a photograph was released of the Bidens in the Grand Corridor at Windsor Castle with the queen.
It is widely expected the president will offer his condolences on the the death of her husband. He wrote to her privately after Philip died, as The Daily Beast has reported, and issued a public statement saying: “From his service during World War II, to his 73 years alongside the Queen, and his entire life in the public eye—Prince Philip gladly dedicated himself to the people of the U.K., the Commonwealth, and to his family.”
Senior courtiers previously told The Daily Beast that the queen’s meeting with Biden could be understood as a statement of her ongoing commitment to her duty, echoing the remarks she made on her 21st birthday (which are given some prominence on the royal family’s website) when she said, in a radio address: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
The private afternoon tea lasted around 40 minutes, with the suitably refreshed Bidens departing on Marine One at 1810 local time (1310 Eastern).
The Daily Mail reported that Biden told the press: “She reminded me of my mother.”