As Britain mourns, America’s “special relationship” with its one-time colonial master completes another cycle of its enduring life.
US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden arrived in Britain Saturday, visiting Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin as she lay in state in the ancient Westminster Hall the following day. They later attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by King Charles III and the Queen Consort.
Paying tribute to the Queen earlier last week, Biden told King Charles III his mother helped strengthen their nation’s bonds, her “dignity and constancy deepened the enduring friendship and special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.”
It is perhaps no surprise she did; her reign was born in the prime of that “special relationship.”
It was the UK’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s insistent trans-Atlantic diplomacy that helped win American support for Britain in World War II.
In his famous “special relationship” speech in Missouri on March 5, 1946, six years before Princess Elizabeth would become Queen, Churchill suggested a creed for the nations: “Here is the message of the British and American people to mankind. Let us preach what we practice — let us practice what we preach.”
The Queen would live Churchill’s words to the letter, and significantly he would be her first and formative prime minister. She would later see in another 14, although none with a reputation quite as fearsome as his.
In 1946 Churchill arguably laid the groundwork for decades of close cooperation, from trying Nazi war criminals, to global peacekeeping duties, to standing alongside America after al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks.
The relationship worked both ways; President Bill Clinton helped the Queen’s government establish peace in Northern Ireland in 1998, a peace that Queen Elizabeth worked tirelessly to strengthen.
During his phone call last week President Biden “conveyed his wish to continue a close relationship with the King.”