US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit Queen's coffin lying in state
US President, Joe Biden, and First Lady, Jill Biden, are among several world leaders including those from Ukraine, Brazil, Canada and India who have viewed the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II lying in state on the catafalque in Westminster Hall ahead of her funeral on Monday.
Mr Biden and his wife arrived in the heavily armoured presidential car known as The Beast around 5pm on Sunday and waved at crowds in London on the way. Mr Biden, who is Catholic, was seen crossing himself inside the largely silent hall and briefly placing his hand on his heart before quietly speaking a few words to his wife, Jill. US ambassador to the UK, Jane Hartley also appeared with them.
He later signed a book of condolences at Lancaster House, which has also been signed by several other leaders, and said the Queen communicated dignity and a notion of service
“Our hearts go out to the Royal Family,” the US president said.
The Queen’s body has been lying in state at the historic Westminster Hall since Wednesday, and people from all walks of life and from around the world have been filing past in a constant, emotional stream, many queuing overnight.
“Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world,” Mr Biden said in a message following news of the queen’s death on September 8 at the age of 96.
He was one of the 14 US presidents of her 70-year reign, of which Elizabeth met all except Lyndon Johnson, starting with Harry Truman in 1951 when she was still a princess.
Mr Biden will join presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans representing nearly 200 countries and territories at the funeral.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska also visited the hall alongside the country’s ambassador to London, Vadym Prystaiko, standing on the platform of the east wall for a few minutes.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron were seen walking through London hand-in-hand wearing sunglasses and trainers on the way to Westminster Hall.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle Bolsonaro also visited the hall on Sunday, while Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau also appeared with his wife, Sophie Trudeau. Those who had been queueing outside continued to file past alongside the world leaders nearby.
Dignatories from Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Droupadi Murmu, President of India, and Spain’s King Felipe VI and Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf were also seen visiting the Queen’s coffin.
“Everybody’s there for one person, to mark what she’s done for people and whatever way they felt she touched them or their country,” said Darren Luckhurst, a 49-year-old headteacher.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the “sheer silence” was one of the things that made the laying in state so moving, adding that she had shared her moment beside the coffin on Friday with people who had queued for 20 hours or longer.
“The queen was here for her people and now her people are there for her,” she told the BBC on Sunday.