Joe Biden will not attend King's Coronation

·5-min read
King Charles III and Joe Biden
King Charles III and Joe Biden

Joe Biden will not attend the King’s Coronation next month, The Telegraph understands.

The US president is “not expected” to join dozens of heads of state for the event on May 6, according to sources close to discussions, and will send a delegation in his place.

America is keen to counter any perception of a snub and show support for the King by sending high-profile representatives, with one possibility under consideration being that Jill Biden, the first lady, could attend.

Coronation guests have already been emailed by Buckingham Palace and told to “save the date” of the ceremony, with some asked to RSVP to the palace by Monday.

The event will be attended by heads of state from around the world, including from Ireland, France, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Hungary and Monaco. All three presidents of the EU – Ursula von der Leyen, Roberta Metsola and Charles Michel – will be there.

Humza Yousaf, the newly-elected First Minister of Scotland, has said he will attend despite being an avowed republican. However, he has also accepted an invitation to speak at a pro-independence rally in Glasgow on the same day.

The King this week made his first state visit as monarch, travelling to Germany after plans to also visit France were called off amid widespread protests over Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.

On Friday, the final day of the trip, the King and Queen visited Hamburg, where Charles stood shoulder to shoulder with Germany’s president in a symbol of reconciliation as they laid wreaths in remembrance of the victims of war.

Dame Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the US, and Buckingham Palace aides are understood to have held “cordial and diplomatic” talks with the White House about the Coronation and been told that Mr Biden, who attended the funeral of the late Queen, already has other commitments.

The 80-year-old president is planning to visit Northern Ireland in April for an event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, and is thought to be preparing to announce his intention to stand for re-election in the 2024 presidential race.

On Friday night, sources close to Mr Biden insisted his relationship with the King was “strong”, and both London and Washington have attempted to play down any suggestion of a threat to the “special relationship”. He may meet the King during in Northern Ireland during his day-and-a-half visit on April 11.

However, Bob Seely, a Conservative MP on the foreign affairs select committee, said the White House had made a “foolish decision” and urged Mr Biden to rethink his schedule.

“It seems pretty remiss, and I’m tempted to say more fool him for not coming,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you would have thought he should come because he’s a head of state.

“If I was the President of the United States, I would come to the Coronation of the King of England – there’s no two ways about it. It just seems to be a foolish decision.”

But Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the defence select committee, said: “Whilst we’d hope Joe Biden would be invited, there is no historical protocol for a US president to attend royal coronations, so we should not read too much into any absence. America will be represented, and it will be telling who the president chooses to send.”

The White House has told Britain’s representatives that Mr Biden intends to send a delegation, but he has not yet sent a formal response to Buckingham Palace.

One source close to discussions said there “may still be some efforts under way to see if Biden can be persuaded to come to the Coronation”, while another said his plan to decline was “not locked and loaded” and remained “technically in play”. One senior US official indicated that no final decisions had been made.

Mr Biden is expected to meet Rishi Sunak regularly in the next few months, including at the G7 summit in Hiroshima from May 19.

Although his absence from the group of world leaders will be interpreted as unusual, it has precedent in the coronation of Elizabeth II, which Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the US president, did not attend.

Eisenhower sent a delegation including George C. Marshall, the US Army chief of staff during the Second World War, and Earl Warren, the governor of California.

White House officials have previously indicated that it was always “unlikely” Mr Biden would go to the Coronation. However, his decision to spend nearly a week in Ireland rather than attending is expected to lead to renewed criticism of his positions on Brexit.

Mr Biden’s administration has previously put pressure on Downing Street to resolve problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which were addressed by Mr Sunak’s Windsor Framework deal, announced last month. The US president’s visit to Northern Ireland had been in doubt unless a resolution was reached over the protocol.

Mr Biden is descended from the Finnegans of Country Louth, and the Blewitts of County Mayo, and often invokes his Irish heritage. On Friday night, a government source noted: “He’s very proud of his Irish roots.”

A source close to the Biden administration also pointed to his age, saying “foreign travel takes a fair amount out of him” and adding: “They try to restrict it to the essentials, and they may just think twice about crossing the Atlantic twice in quick succession. They may think that he came to the funeral, and that’s kind of enough.”

Downing Street declined to comment.