LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II joined the Group of Seven summit in southwest England on Friday, adding some star power to a diplomatic charm offensive as Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the “indestructible relationship” between Britain and the United States.
While there was always meant to be some royal presence at the G-7 summit in the small Cornish seaside town of Carbis Bay, the arrival of the queen came as a surprise.
She joined leaders of the G-7 countries — the U.S., Canada, Japan, the U.K., Germany, France and Italy — for dinner as they seek to move past any tensions undercutting the event and present a united front in their bid to rejuvenate the beleaguered West.
The leaders are set to discuss plans to donate hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries, climate change, and setting a global minimum corporation tax of 15 percent.
The White House has also made it clear that it sees the trip as a chance to rally allies round the cause of liberal democracy against what Biden sees as the authoritarian threat of Russia and China.
The unexpected attendance of the queen, 95, meant she joined Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, for the leaders’ reception at the Eden Project, a tropical garden built under a cluster of vast bio-domes.
Charles, the heir to the throne and a climate activist, will host a reception for the leaders and prominent CEOs “to discuss how the private sector can work with governments to tackle the climate emergency,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
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The Duchess of Cambridge also met Jill Biden on Friday for a trip to a local school.
Asked if she had any wishes for her new niece Lilibet Diana, Kate said she wished her “all the very best.”
“I can’t wait to meet her,” she added. “We haven’t met her yet. I hope that will be soon.”
Asked if she had facetimed with Harry and Meghan’s daughter since her birth last week, Kate said she had not.
The arrival of top-tier royals represents the most potent soft-power weapon that Britain has to offer, even if the royal brand has been beset by familial crisis.
The country is hosting this international spectacle at a time when it is trying to redefine its international role after an acrimonious departure from the European Union last year.
The queen is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and has met every sitting U.S. president since Harry Truman, with the exception of Lyndon Johnson.
The first lady will also travel with the president to Windsor Castle to meet the queen Sunday after the summit, as previously announced.
Biden will be the 13th U.S. leader she’s greeted, spanning decades of what’s been historically called the “special relationship” between Washington and London.
This week it was revealed that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson doesn’t like that phrase, with one aide reportedly saying he felt it sounded needy.
Instead on Friday Johnson described the Anglo-American bond as an “indestructible relationship.”
“It’s a relationship that has endured for a very long time, and has been an important part of peace and prosperity both in Europe and around the world,” he told the BBC, also calling it a “deep and meaningful relationship.”
The president has repeatedly used the phrase “special relationship” despite his counterpart’s distaste for it.
“We affirmed the special relationship — it’s not said lightly — the special relationship between our people,” he said Thursday after a meeting that both sides hailed as a success.
Johnson described working with Biden as “a big breath of fresh air.”
But the summit has been far from tension-free.
Before even landing on British soil, the Biden administration issued a stern warning to Johnson not to let Brexit threaten peace in Northern Ireland.
Tensions have risen in the province because, in the eyes of some, Brexit has weakened its ties with the U.K. and risked pulling it closer into the orbit of the Irish Republic, a separate country to the south.
That risks reigniting decades of conflict between mostly Catholic “nationalists” — who want Northern Ireland to reunite with the Irish Republic — and mostly Protestant “unionists” — who want the area to remain part of the U.K.
Biden, who has Irish heritage, has warned that the U.S. does not want to see any threat to the Good Friday Agreement, a landmark 1998 peace deal brokered in part by the U.S.
On Thursday evening French President Emmanuel Macron also chastised Britain’s attempts to renegotiate aspects of Brexit covering Northern Ireland. The U.K.’s attempts to do so have become a major point of friction with the E.U.
“Nothing is renegotiable,” Macron told a press conference.
Andrea Mitchell contributed.