For President Joe Biden, it was the crumpets. For his wife, first lady Jill Biden, it was the tea.
Joe and Jill Biden helped pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II on Sunday by sharing memories of their tea time last year when she invited them to join her at Windsor Castle, near London.
The president, who said Elizabeth reminded him of his late mother after that visit in 2021, recalled Sunday that she continued to offer him crumpets. He did not refuse.
“I kept eating everything she put in front of me,” he said. “But she was personally the same as … her image: decent, honorable and all about service.”
The Queen, Britain’s longest-serving monarch, died earlier this month after a 70-year reign. Biden is one of hundreds of heads of state and other dignitaries who will be in London on Monday to attend her state funeral at Westminster Abbey.
The first lady told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after she and the president attended a reception at Buckingham Palace that “what really impressed me” about the queen was “how warm and gracious she was.”
“I loved her curiosity. She wanted to know all about American politics, so she asked Joe question after question,” said Jill Biden. She said that sitting in Elizabeth’s living room is “almost like, you know, being with your grandmother.”
And she said, ‘Let me pour the tea,’ and we said, ‘No, no, let’s help,’ and she said, ‘Oh no, no, no, I’ll get this. Sit down,” said Jill Biden. “And it was just a very special moment with a very special woman.”
The Bidens paid their respects to the Queen on Sunday by traveling to Westminster Hall, where she lay in state, to stand before the monarch’s coffin in the presence of thousands of mourners who had waited for hours to pass.
They then signed condolences at Lancaster House before going to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by King Charles III and other members of the royal family for the world leaders who had flown in for the funeral.
After signing the book, Biden said his heart goes out to the royal family because the queen’s death has left a “huge hole” in it.
“Sometimes you think you’ll never, you’ll never get over it,” said Biden, who often speaks in very personal terms about the loss after the death of his first wife and daughter, and later an adult son. “But as I told the king, she will be with him every step of the way—every minute, every moment. And that is a comforting thought.”
While viewing the coffin on Sunday, the first lady said, she saw a little boy dressed in a Boy Scout uniform come in and pay the queen a three-fingered greeting.
“I mean, it just gave me a lump in my throat,” she said, showing “how much people really loved their queen, regardless of age.”
President Biden wrote in the condolence book that the Queen was “admired around the world for her unwavering dedication to service.”
The first lady signed a separate condolence register for husbands and ambassadors, writing: “Queen Elizabeth lived her life for the people. She served with wisdom and grace. We will never forget her warmth, kindness and the conversations we shared.”
In the interview, Jill Biden warned that there is a “human piece” to the Queen’s death.
Speaking of Charles, she said: “He’s the king, but no one should forget, he lost his mother and, you know, Prince William lost a grandmother. Sometimes we tend to forget the really human part of this and the grief they have to bear… and how to grieve in public. But they seem to be doing well,” she said.
More than 2,000 people were expected at Westminster Abbey for the funeral on Monday.