By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, headed to London on Saturday to attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, departing Washington without any former U.S. presidents, who are not taking part in the somber event.
The White House said earlier this week that the royal invitation to the funeral, which takes place on Monday at Westminster Abbey, was for the Bidens only.
The queen died on Sept. 8 after a 70-year reign, sparking a grief and mourning across the United Kingdom and around the world.
She had met multiple U.S. presidents, including, in more recent years, Donald Trump, Barack Obama and George W. Bush. She met 13 of the last 14 American presidents, all except Lyndon Johnson and starting with Harry Truman in 1951 when she was still a princess.
The Bidens, who joined the queen for tea in June 2021, are due to arrive in London on Saturday evening.
Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Liz Truss at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, rather than meeting in London on Sunday, her office said on Saturday.
On Sunday the Bidens are scheduled to pay respects to the late sovereign, whose coffin is lying in Westminster Hall. Afterwards they will sign an official condolence book before attending a reception hosted by King Charles.
The state funeral on Monday is to be attended by nearly 100 presidents and heads of government.
Biden, 79, has said the queen reminded him of his mother. The president is deeply familiar with grief, having lost his adult son to cancer in 2015 and his wife and young daughter to a car accident decades ago.
The president and his wife will return to Washington on Monday after the funeral.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Daniel Wallis)