Second of our two-part jubilee coverage spotlights ‘leaders of the free world’ that Her Majesty has greeted to UK shores during seven decades on the throne
The Queen, who ascended the throne in 1952 and is currently the world’s longest-reigning monarch, has played a major role in keeping the “special” diplomatic relationship between the UK and the US on track.
During her 70 years on the throne, she has seen fourteen US Presidents come and go – but what kind of relationship did she have with each? Steve Cain has the answers.
When Elizabeth met Harry Truman, in 1951, she was still a princess. However, her father, King George VI was so ill at the time that Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip represented the King on an official trip to America when she was just 25 years old.
The two day trip may have been brief, but the royal couple won the hearts of the American people and their President. Truman said: “never before have we had such a wonderful young couple, who have so completely captured the hearts of all of us.”
Elizabeth made her first official visit to America as Queen in 1957. She had met Eisenhower, a friend of her parents, when she was still a princess. During the visit, she attended a state dinner at the White House, for which Eisenhower wore his British Order of Merit.
Two years later, the Queen hosted Eisenhower at Balmoral and shared with him her recipe for grilled scones. Their relationship was close and they corresponded by letter for years.
John F Kennedy,
President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy were guests at a state dinner at Buckingham Palace only a few months after his inauguration, in June 1961. The Queen reportedly felt “upstaged” by the First Lady but enjoyed a warm relationship with the President. After his assassination, Elizabeth created a physical memorial and a scholarship fund in Kennedy’s honour.
Lyndon B Johnson,
Johnson was the only President never to have met the Queen. Although they corresponded from March 1964 to July 1967, Queen Elizabeth never sent an invitation to Johnson to visit the UK; and Johnson never sent an invitation to the Queen to visit the US.
In 1969, Nixon made an informal visit to the UK, where he was a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
He reportedly tried to match-make his daughter, Tricia, with the eligible Prince Charles.
In 1976, the Queen made a trip to the States shortly after the 200th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence from Britain.
President Ford and First Lady Betty Ford hosted a state dinner in honour of the Queen. A faux-pas was committed when Ford asked the Queen to dance – as the band played The Lady Is A Tramp.
The Queen played host to Carter and other heads of state in May 1977, during a NATO summit.
Carter broke royal protocol when he planted a full kiss squarely on the Queen Mother’s lips at a dinner held at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen Mother famously stated: “nobody has done that since my husband died.”
The Queen is said to have had a close bond with Reagan and his wife, Nancy. The couple became the first
American President and First Lady to stay overnight at Windsor Castle, during an official state visit in June 1982.
The Queen and President Reagan both loved horse riding and Reagan was reported to have admired Elizabeth’s lifetime of service to her country and her sensible, unpretentious style.
In 1989, the Queen granted Reagan an honorary knighthood in recognition of his assistance to the UK during the Falklands conflict.
George HW Bush,
The Queen and President George HW Bush appeared to be relaxed in each other’s company.
During a trip to the US in 1991, the Queen delivered an address on the White House lawn, but all that could be seen of her above the lectern was her hat.
The gaffe was termed “Podiumgate” and, by all accounts, it was a source of huge amusement to Her Majesty.
The first of many meetings between the Queen and President Clinton took place in 1994 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day.
The President and the First Lady Hillary Clinton stayed overnight on the royal yacht Britannia. During the negotiations of the Northern Ireland peace process, the Queen and Clinton would meet several times more.
Clinton said of the Queen: “Her Majesty impressed me as someone who but for the circumstance of her birth, might have become a successful politician or diplomat. As it was, she had to be both, without quite seeming to be either.”
George W Bush,
The Queen first met President George W Bush during his six-day tour of Europe in 2001. However, two years later, he became the first American President to make an official state visit to the UK.
This led to more than 100,000 protestors taking to the streets in opposition to the Iraq war. In 2007, the Queen light-heartedly poked fun at the President when he mistakenly said she’d visited the States in 1776 (rather than 1976) to mark America’s bicentennial.
The Queen enjoyed a warm relationship with President Obama and his wife, Michelle.
During his Presidency, Obama and the First Lady made five trips to Britain and, on her 90th birthday, he said the Queen “is one of my favourite people.”
President Trump was accused of committing a number of royal faux-pas during his visit to the UK in 2018, including being late for a meeting at Windsor Castle, turning his back on the Queen and walking in front of her, and shaking her hand instead of bowing.
The Queen maintained a true British “stiff upper lip” throughout.
Democratic (2021 onward)
The Queen met President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for the first time, in June 2021, at the G7 summit in Cornwall.
However, she had already sent a message of congratulations to the President ahead of his inauguration.
Biden said of the Queen: “She was very generous. I don’t think she’d be insulted but she reminded me of my mother. She was very gracious.”