No American President has attended a coronation of a British Monarch. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was invited to the last crowning of a British sovereign—in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth formally took the throne—but decided to skip it and send a delegation of American luminaries instead.
In keeping with that precedent, Joe Biden won’t be at the crowning of King Charles III on Saturday, part of a three-day national celebration estimated to cost British taxpayers $125 million. He tapped First Lady Jill Biden to attend in his place, along with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden. Biden’s absence is not intended to insult Charles, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last month “It is not a snub,” Jean-Pierre said.
But that didn’t stop Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, from blasting him for not making the return trip to England for the coronation, after Biden had recently swung through Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“I think it’s very disrespectful for him not to be here,” Trump said on Wednesday in an interview with Nigel Farage, a former British politician who was a prominent supporter of Brexit, on GB News. He added, “And when you have somebody who’s going to be sleeping instead of coming to the coronation as President of the United States, I think that, I think that’s a bad thing.”
While she is in the United Kingdom, Jill Biden will meet with Akshata Murty, the wife of Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, at 10 Downing Street. The two will meet with veterans and visit a local elementary school on Friday. On Friday evening, Jill Biden will attend a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Charles the night before the crowning ceremony on Saturday.
Read more: Is the British Monarchy Still Popular?
In a 25-minute phone call in early April, Biden told Charles that First Lady Jill Biden would attend the coronation in his place. Charles invited Biden to come to the U.K. at a later date during his presidency for a formal state visit, and Biden accepted, according to a description of the phone call from the White House.
Much of Biden’s father’s family is English, but he’s long favored his mother’s Irish ancestry in his speeches and the anecdotes he tells. In 1982, when he was traveling to meet Queen Elizabeth for the first time, his mother called him to tell him not to bow to her.
Biden has occasionally made reference to Britain’s violent colonization of Ireland and the centuries of animosity that followed.
During his Ireland trip last night, while visiting the Windsor Bar and Restaurant in Dundalk, Biden described his grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, telling him, “‘Remember, Joey, the best drop of blood in you is Irish.’” A few minutes later, he acknowledged his English ancestry as well. “You know, Biden is English. I hate to tell you that. I don’t hate to — I’m joking, but it’s true,” Biden said.
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