Why Biden sat in the 14th row at Queen Elizabeth II's funeral

At the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, where hundreds of world leaders, royalty and dignitaries of all stripes thronged Westminster Abbey, the seating pattern is imbued with meaning. So it’s no surprise that the position of US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were placed 14 rows further back.

They were behind the president of Poland and ahead of the prime minister of the Czech Republic. The President of Switzerland sat one seat up, next to the First Lady of the United States.

The answer to the question is both routine and extraordinary: Americans are stuck in a traffic jam.

President Joe Biden takes his seat with his wife Jill Biden, other heads of state and dignitaries at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II held at Westminster Abbey, London.  (Dominik Lipinski-Pool/Reuters)

President Joe Biden takes his seat with his wife Jill Biden, other heads of state and dignitaries at the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II held at Westminster Abbey, London.

Dominic Lipinski—Pool/Reuters

While most VIPs took the bus to Westminster Abbey, Biden appeared in The Beast, the heavily armored limousine that travels with the US president. Biden made one of the few exceptions to the strict security protocols surrounding the event, which prohibited guests from taking private jets to London and using foreign or government vehicles.

However, the special treatment ended there.

According to a schedule of events released by the palace, foreign dignitaries were due to take their seats at Westminster Abbey between 9:35 and 9:55 a.m., ahead of the official start at 11 a.m., but the Bidens ran into stopped traffic along the way ( a video , filmed on a mobile phone, showed the clumsy black US presidential limousine crawling past a Pret a Manger).

The Bidens did not arrive at the funeral until 10:07 am

Most of the time when the President of the United States is late, people are waiting for him. That was not the case at the funeral of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, where international royalty and world leaders gathered by the dozens.

Biden was “gently” told According to guard, that they would have to wait to find their seats while a line of British veterans bearing the honor of the George and Victoria crosses passed through the Abbey before them. They followed the last of the military members down the main path to their seats.

When he signed Queen Elizabeth II’s official condolence book the day before the funeral, he said the Queen reminded him of his mother and he was “honoured to meet her”.

“To all the people of England, all the people of the United Kingdom, our hearts go out to you,” he said in his remarks. “You were lucky to have her for 70 years. We all were. The world is better for her.

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Write to Yulia Zortyan c [email protected].

More must-see stories from TIME


Write to Yulia Zortyan c [email protected].

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