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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Queen Elizabeth II Dies At 96. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 08, 2022 - 15:30   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Father and for her reign to begin. We're going to have more from Britain in the passing of Queen Elizabeth next. Stay with us.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Images of Buckingham Palace right now. Welcome back to "The Lead." The world is mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth. Live pictures outside Buckingham Palace we were showing you earlier. There's London where crowds are gathered to pay their respects.

Let's bring in CNN historian Kate Williams and royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith. Sally, let me start with you. You've covered the royal family for decades. It's tough to imagine the UK without Queen Elizabeth, what does it look like?

SALLY BEDELL SMITH, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: Well, it looks like a nation that's deeply in mourning. I mean, I was so struck by what all those people the sort of slice of Britain and from all over the world what they were saying. And they're just, I mean, I -- we've been sort of anticipating this, but I think it's -- I think it will surpass the mourning for Diana.

SMITH: Yes. I mean, it is huge. It is just immense, 70 years looming over British life, looming over the Commonwealth, really irreplaceable.

TAPPER: And it's tough to imagine but she was thrust into that position. Her reign began when she was only 25 years old, only 26 years old, somewhere in there. How did her style, her leadership style, her queendom evolve over the decades?

SMITH: Well, I think she was very much trained by her father and she was steadfast. And she understood what her responsibilities were. She understood that she needed to be the light above politics and to be completely apolitical. And at the same time, you know, she was the head of nation, she was the head of state and she was the head of nation. And so she set an example for everybody with her behavior, and she honored people for good works. And she, you know, she typified what she called glad service and duty, so she, you know, she was a model for everybody. And, you know, for many, many years, she was admired. And I think in the last 20 years, probably, since the death of her mother, she was really loved.

TAPPER: And then, Kate, we need to remember of course, obviously, she's not just a queen, she's a mother of four, a widow. She was fiercely devoted to her husband, Prince Philip, who died just last year. How did she balance the job of queen with being a member and the matriarch of this family?

KATE WILLIAMS, CNN HISTORIAN: Yes. As you say, Jake, she was also a family woman, four children, eight grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, most recently, Little Lilibet from Harry and Megan. And she was a devoted wife indeed. She gave him the dress last year on her 90th birthday saying that it's been a time of great sadness for her. We all remember that poignant moments when in the funeral of Prince Philip, she was alone because that was the rules of Britain at the time.

Apparently, the government did say to her you don't have to do what everyone else is doing. But she said, no, I want to -- if everyone in Britain, if they can't have funerals in the way they want, I want to do the same. I'm not different. I'm not special. And that was so significant.

And it is, as you say, it's been a balancing act when she came to the throne in 1952. Just so young as you were saying, her father died much earlier than expected. People didn't -- at the time, women were supposed to get back into their home. Women were not supposed to be in big jobs, and certainly those who were not married and they did not have children. So there was a lot of men in the political system who thought that she wasn't up to it, who thought that a mother shouldn't be doing this job. And yet over and over again, she's proved so brilliantly how a woman can do the job, how she's done the job.

And for so many people, the Queen is the monarchy and that's why I think we are suffering list of big seismic change that we are no longer Elizabethans, we are now in a different reign.

TAPPER: All right. Kate Williams and Sally Bedell Smith, stick around. We're going to have a lot more to talk about. We're going to squeeze in a quick break and when we come back, we're going to tell you what we're hearing from President Biden and his White House next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: The flag at the White House is now at half staff President Biden ordering the move to honor Queen Elizabeth II. CNN's Kaitlan Collins, our chief White House correspondent, is there here in Washington, DC. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jake, that's a mark of respect from President Biden lowering the flags here at the White House to half staff and in all federal buildings for the next several days until the burial of Queen Elizabeth. That is what the White House is doing. That comes shortly after President Biden issued his own statement on her passing, saying that she was more than a monarchy, said that she defined an era.


Of course, Jake, he first met her in 1982 when he was just a senator. He last saw her as president last summer when she hosted President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for a private tea. He said that they had a very long meeting and that she was very generous, and talked about the meeting that they had. And one, of course, she asked him, and said she reminded him of his grandmother.

And that was a meeting, of course, Jake, that many other US presidents have had. She met with every US president since Harry Truman, with the exception of LBJ. You've seen many of those presidents paying tribute to her today. President Obama, President Trump, President Bush also putting out a statement that among his fondest memories as president was having tea with the Queen and her corgis, he said in his statement talking about he and First Lady Laura Bush and how much they appreciated her time.

In President Biden's statement, he talked about that meeting that they had last summer, Jake. And he said, during it, the Queen charmed us with her whit, she moved us with her kindness, and she generously shared with us her wisdom. So those comments from him, of course, remarking on the last time that we are told from the White House that he spoke with her. He had been updated throughout the day today on her health as, of course, we were hearing that it was deteriorating.

We are expecting to see him, Jake, in a few hours. He's scheduled to speak at something. He had canceled an earlier speech he had this afternoon following her passing. He is expected to speak in a few hours. We'll see if he comments in person on her death then, Jake. And, of course, one big question has been whether or not he will go to her funeral once they make that planning, something that will also be a good question for the other US president that she met with.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much. Reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth from a member of the British aristocracy. Stay with us, we'll be right back.



TAPPER: Welcome back to "The Lead." The world is mourning to the death of Queen Elizabeth. Let's bring in Julie Montagu. She's perhaps better known to some as the American Viscountess. She's also a member of the British aristocracy. Julie, thanks for joining us. How will you remember Queen Elizabeth II's remarkable 70 year reign?

JULIE MONTAGU, VISCOUNTESS HINCHINGBROOKE: Well, I can really sum it up with somebody that I met today. He's in his 60s, British, and after learning the news of the death of the Queen, he said to me that from a young age, he had carried around a photo of the Queen in his wallet. And I think that that is true for many people around this country. In particular, when you go into households, you will see framed photographs of the Queen in many people's sitting rooms. You know, she is the fabric of people's -- has been the fabric of people's lives.

TAPPER: As people can probably tell from your accent, you're not born in the UK. You married into British aristocracy. Has it been -- have you been able to join the British people, the people of the UK, in this unconditional love they seem to have for the Queen, even though you weren't raised among it?

MONTAGU: No. Absolutely, of course. You know, I've been here now for 25 years. I'm married into the British aristocracy into the Earl of Sandwich family. I mean, it's a very, very traditional British family of nobility. So, of course, for me, I've had this connection with the Queen prior to moving over here to the UK. And then, of course, embracing it even more because of the family that I married into.

But, you know, it's this real sense. Since I've been here for 25 years of, you know, the Queen, as we've been hearing so many times, have been in people's homes, their lives for, you know, from the time that they are born. But I do want to mention that, you know, I feel that one of her greatest achievements was her support for the Succession to the Crown Act, which after 300 years meant that women, daughters could then have an equal right to the throne.

I mean, that is extraordinary. And this is the way that we've seen the Queen really modernize the royal family. You know, she gave broadcast Christmas messages. You know, she went on Twitter in 2014. We saw her in the Olympics in 2012 with, of course, James Bond doing a stunt. You know, she was very much evolving and embracing the modern age.

TAPPER: All right, wonderful. Thank you so much and our deepest condolences to you and your family. Coming up, she stayed calm and carried on for decades facing war, family crises, all while wearing the weight of the crown. We'll continue our remembrance of Queen Elizabeth. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to "The Lead." I'm Jake Tapper and you're looking live at the scene outside a Windsor Castle, or you were a second ago. There it is, where crowds are paying their respects -- that's Buckingham Palace rather, paying their respect to Queen Elizabeth II. She died today at the age of 96 after more than 70 years, 70 years on the throne.

The royal family says the Queen died peacefully earlier today at Balmoral Castle, that's in Scotland. The crowds are growing outside of Buckingham Palace on this rainy evening in London. Prince Harry, we're told, has arrived at the last hour at Balmoral in Scotland joining his father. Now, King Charles III, formerly Prince Charles, Harry's brother, Prince William, is also there. The prince's other children, other family members. We expect King Charles III to address the British people and the world indeed in speech tomorrow.