US President Joe Biden is known for his gaffes, so it’s no surprise that he broke a few rules while visiting the UK. The Bidens recently took their first official overseas trip since the inauguration, and a few details made instant headlines.
Joe Biden is the thirteenth US president received by Queen Elizabeth II. That’s right–Her Maj has been greeting American heads of state since Harry S. Truman’s administration in 1951. The only prez who missed a royal welcome since then was Lyndon B. Johnson.
But not once, all those years of meetings, did the president wear sunglasses. Joe Biden kept his signature aviators on during a photo op with the queen at Windsor Castle. However, the real gaffe was what happened after the meeting.
One Simply Does Not Spill the Tea
During the private meeting between the Bidens and Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, they talked about Russia and China. Nothing unusual about that… except for the fact that we know it at all.
According to royal protocol, what the queen says in private should remain private. Instead, Biden cheerfully gave a statement to the London press and spilled royal tea all over the place.
“I don’t think she’d be insulted but she reminded me of my mother, the look of her and just the generosity,” Biden said.
“She’s extremely gracious, that’s not surprising, but we had a great talk. She wanted to know what the two leaders that I – the one I’m about to meet with, Mr. Putin, and she wanted to know about Xi Jinping, and we had a long talk.”
How Bad Is This?
Despite the breach in protocol, most political analysts are saying that the meeting was a success. The US and the UK have been each other’s closest foreign allies, despite the whole Revolutionary War thing, and Biden’s gaffes are far from the worst diplomatic challenges the two nations have faced.
There are loads of royal etiquette rules, some of them more old-fashioned or obscure than others. For example, it appears that Biden’s motorcade arrived after the queen’s when they met on June 11–but etiquette insists that everyone arrives before Her Majesty. And when Donald Trump met Queen Elizabeth, he committed the very great breach of etiquette when he walked in front of her during a stroll across the lawn.
And Michelle Obama–who famously became friends with Prince Harry–actually hugged the queen when they met! It doesn’t take a royal expert to know that hugging the monarch isn’t acceptable. However, protocol only goes as far as the queen wants it to go, and it seems that she was happy to embrace Ms. Obama. Will she be as pleased about Biden’s comments on their private conversation? Considering that The Firm doesn’t complain or explain, we’ll probably never know.