Elizabeth II weaved through American presidents a special relationship with the United States.
Her first official meeting with an American president dates back to 1951 and was immortalized in black and white: Princess Elizabeth waving from the back of a convertible, next to a bewitched Harry Truman. In her quote for the former British colony, she shows her skills as a statesman: “Free men everywhere look to America with affection and hope.”
Between Harry Truman and Joe Biden, the United States has had 14 presidents. She met everyone except Lyndon B. Johnson.
Elizabeth II, whose reign championed the position of American superpower, applied the same attitude to all her interlocutors in Washington, a mixture of formal detachment and skillful familiarity.
There were balls at the White House or unmissable teas at one or the other of the Queen’s palaces. Elizabeth II was photographed in an evening dress with the Kennedys and danced with Gerald Ford at a formal dinner celebrating the bicentennial of American independence in 1976.
– Tacos and scones –
While satisfying the American press’s hunger for royal courtship and pageantry, the Queen has been busy cultivating it in less formal exchanges, such as when she rode horses around Windsor Castle in 1982 with Ronald Reagan. The former Western actor returned the favor in 1983 when he invited her to share tacos and guacamole at his California ranch.
Invited by George W. Bush to a baseball game in 1991, she shook hands with all the players. According to the dispatch of the UPI agency, the sovereign avoided hot dogs, but drank a martini.
The US National Archives also found a handwritten letter from 1960 in which she gave Dwight Eisenhower her recipe for scones, which the president tasted at the Scottish royal house in Balmoral.
Later, several American presidents would say that they felt an almost childlike affection for the sovereign. “I don’t believe she found it offensive, but it reminded me of my mother,” Joe Biden commented on his meeting with the sovereign in June 2021.
In 1982, a young Senator Joe Biden preparing for his first meeting with the Queen received this advice from his mother, a proud descendant of an Irish family: “Don’t bow to her,” “Don’t you dare bow to her.”
Donald Trump told the Daily Mail that while having tea in 2018 at Windsor Castle with his wife, Melania, he thought of his mother: “She was a big fan of the Queen.” Barack Obama commented that Elizabeth II reminded him of his grandmother. “She was very important to us,” said the Obamas after the death of the British queen.
All five former US presidents have paid tribute to Elizabeth II. Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump use the concepts of “elegance”, “sense of duty”, “kindness” and ” humor” to evoke the late sovereign.
Biden ordered the American flag to be lowered until the funeral, including at the White House, which was burned in 1814 by British soldiers. In his long statement, the American president summed up a sentiment that prevailed around the world, especially in his country: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She embodied an era.”