Biden reveals Queen asked about Putin and Xi during tea at Windsor Castle
US president gives insight into his discussions with monarch in short visit after G7 summit in Cornwall
Dan Sabbagh and Steven Morris
Sun 13 Jun 2021 18.47 BST
Joe Biden revealed the Queen had asked him about his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, during their 45-minute talk over tea at Windsor Castle, in the aftermath of the G7 summit on Sunday.
It was an exceptionally rare, if limited, insight into political discussions involving the British monarch: the contents of her regular weekly audiences with the British prime minister of the day are kept confidential.
But the US president, the most powerful politician in the western world, gave a brief taste of their meeting to White House reporters on the tarmac at Heathrow airport on Sunday evening, before flying out to his next stop, Brussels.
“We had a long talk, she was very generous. I don’t think she’d be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother. In terms of the look of her and just the generosity,” Biden, 78, said of the Queen, 95.
Those who speak to the Queen on other occasions are also not supposed to reveal what she has said to avoid embarrassing her, because, as head of state, the monarch does not publicly comment on political matters.
In 2012, the BBC was forced to apologise after its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, revealed on Radio 4 that the Queen had told him she was aghast that Abu Hamza could not be arrested during the period when he aired vehemently anti-British views as imam of Finsbury Park mosque in north London.
Biden also said he had invited the Queen to the White House, which she first visited in October 1957 on a four-day stay when Dwight Eisenhower was president. That was not her first meeting with a US president: as a princess she met with Harry Truman in 1951.
Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, was the 13th holder of the office to have met Elizabeth II. His meeting in the castle in Berkshire came after he inspected a ceremonial guard of honour in the building’s central quadrangle.
No details of their discussion was disclosed by the palace, although a picture was taken of the Queen and her visitors in the castle’s Grand Corridor, featuring a diminutive monarch dressed in pink flanked by somewhat taller visitors.
Earlier, PA Media reported a snippet of overheard conversation, as the official party headed inside to the castle. The Queen said to the president: “You completed your talks.” Biden replied: “Yes we did.”
The president had flown up from Cornwall on the Marine One presidential helicopter, arriving at Windsor in a black Range Rover, where he was greeted by the Queen, who was standing alone, two months after the death of her husband, Prince Philip.
Clearly at ease with each other, Biden then inspected the troops on his own, so preventing a repeat of Donald Trump’s faux pas where the former president walked in front of the Queen on his own visit to Windsor in 2018.
The Queen has met every US president since visiting Truman, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson in the 60s. The first US president to visit Windsor was Ronald Reagan, who rode on horseback with the monarch in 1982.
During the G7 summit, the royal family has taken a particularly active role, with the Queen hosting a reception for Biden and other G7 leaders at the Eden Project in Cornwall, also attended by Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince William and wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Earlier, the president was 15 minutes late for a 9am mass at the Sacred Heart and St Ia Catholic church as his cavalcade negotiated the twisting streets of St Ives in Cornwall.
Parishioner Ann Buckley: said: “It was an ordinary mass. He didn’t arrive on time. He missed father’s sermon. Father didn’t wait for him. He has another mass in Penzance to get to.”
Her brother, Martin, was disappointed that Boris Johnson had not visited too. “Boris gets married in Westminster Cathedral but doesn’t come here. What a golden opportunity and he didn’t come.”
Father Philip Dyson said he had not been given advance warning that the president and his wife would be joining them for the service and admitted he was slightly nervous while conducting the service.
“I welcomed him to Cornwall and he said he was enjoying his time here and there were many serious matters they were discussing and just hope it’s going to come to fruition.
“I think the G7 has been such a great occasion. The scripture readings were appropriate because it was about creation and climate, and things growing, so it absolutely suited the occasion.”
He added that the scriptures were not selected “by choice”, adding: “It’s just the way it always is. The word of God always fits in.”