The leader of the free world was relegated to Westminster Abbey’s nosebleed seats for Monday’s funeral of Queen Elizabeth.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden were seated 14 rows back for the service in what the British press described as the result of a complex seating plan devised under long-established protocols. Those with a better view included the president of Poland, the emperor and empress of Japan, other European royals and the King of Jordan.
“Biden isn’t very ego-driven but he’s going to be near the front,” Lord Renwick, who served as British ambassador to the United States in the early 1990s, told the Times. “[French President] Macron would have hysterics if he wasn’t given a place of honor. [German Chancellor] Olaf Scholz wouldn’t care. You’ve got to say to yourself: ‘Who is going to have a hissy fit?’”
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The Bidens were afforded one special privilege denied other royals and heads of state: Instead of suffering the indignity of arriving by bus, they were permitted to ride to the affair in “the beast,” as the presidential limousine is known. That’s because U.S. Secret Service protocols dictate that the president travel by armored car with a security detail on hand.
Renwick said it is standard for the American president to receive exemptions that other world leaders would not receive.
“We don’t permit huge swarms of protectors to be around them, although you have to rein off for the president of the United States. He is always surrounded by secret service agents wherever he goes,” he said.
Some 2,000 mourners attended the funeral for Queen Elizabeth, who died Sept. 8 at 96, after a record 70-year reign. King Charles and the rest of the royal family occupied the first two rows. Seated next to the Bidens in the legendary abbey’s south transept was Swiss President Ignazio Cassis.
The late queen was to be buried at Windsor Castle after the service.