Queen Elizabeth II Honored at White House State Dinner 

By Lauren Monsen
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, concluded their six-day visit to the United States by hosting a dinner for the U.S. president and first lady at the British Embassy in Washington.

During an exchange of toasts on the evening of May 8, the queen thanked President Bush and his predecessors for their contribution “in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.” Northern Ireland’s first power-sharing government had convened that morning, marking the end of direct rule from London and raising hopes for a permanent, peaceful coexistence between Northern Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant communities. (See related article.)

Earlier in the day, the queen made appearances at several sites in the Washington area.  She toured the Children’s National Medical Center, accompanied by the first lady, and met a few of the patients and their caregivers.

Afterward, the queen and the duke were joined by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and NASA Administration Michael Griffin at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Your Majesty, we’re so grateful of our nations working together to make this a better and safer world. … We look forward to making new discoveries with you and looking out among the stars and the galaxies to come up with new knowledge to look out for the common heritage of mankind,” Mikulski said in welcoming remarks.  

At Goddard, the queen spoke via satellite with the crew of the International Space Station, and she was presented with a framed image of the Hubble spacecraft.

Concluding her agenda on a nostalgic note, the queen also visited the World War II Memorial and met with British war brides who had married U.S. soldiers more than 60 years earlier.

The royal visit, which also included attendance at the Kentucky Derby and a white-tie state dinner at the White House, was undertaken to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America.  (See related article.)


As the first white-tie event held at the White House in more than six years, the dinner hosted May 7 by President and Mrs. Bush in honor of their royal guests was perhaps the most prestigious Washington social event of the Bush administration.

The evening began just before dusk, when the royal couple arrived at the White House and joined the Bushes on a red carpet to pose for photographers.  The president and the duke wore white tie and tails, with the duke’s formal attire augmented by a ceremonial blue sash.  The queen wore a white gown with ceremonial sash, long white gloves and an impressive array of jewelry, including a diamond tiara, a diamond necklace and bracelet, a pearl watch and diamond drop earrings.  The first lady appeared in a turquoise silk gown and matching bolero, designed for her by couturier Oscar de la Renta.

In an interview earlier on May 7, the first lady told ABC television’s Good Morning America that she had meticulously planned the event with the White House staff.  Although the dinner was designed to highlight American cuisine and culture, some features were added as a tribute to the queen and the U.K.-U.S. alliance.  Damask-covered tables in the State Dining Room were set with antique flatware and candelabras from a London silversmith.  English farmhouse cheeses were served with the salad and a cake was topped with a spun-sugar confection that duplicated the queen’s 1953 coronation rose.

Among the guests in attendance were former first lady Nancy Reagan, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, and - in recognition of the queen’s passion for thoroughbred horse racing - Calvin Borel, the jockey who rode Street Sense to victory in the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, a triumph witnessed by the queen and her husband two days earlier when they visited Louisville, Kentucky.

Exchanging toasts before the dinner, the president and the queen hailed the long-standing friendship between Great Britain and the United States.  The two leaders also alluded to challenges that confront the world in the 21st century.

“Over your long reign, America and Britain have deepened our friendship and strengthened our alliance,” said Bush.  “Based on our common values, our two nations are working together for the common good.  Together we are supporting young democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Together we’re confronting global challenges such as poverty and disease and terrorism.  And together we’re working to build a world in which more people can enjoy prosperity and security and peace.

“Friendships remain strong when they are continually renewed, and the American people appreciate Your Majesty’s commitment to our friendship,” he added.  “We’re confident that Anglo-American friendship will endure for centuries to come.”

In response, the queen spoke of the United States’ “steadfast commitment … to a Europe whole and free,” a reference not only to the U.S. role in helping secure an Allied victory over the Nazis in World War II, but also to U.S. support for democratic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

“For those of us who have witnessed the peace and stability and prosperity enjoyed in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe over these postwar years, we have every reason to remember that this has been founded on the bedrock of the Atlantic Alliance,” she said.  “Today the United States and the United Kingdom, with our partners in Europe and the Commonwealth, face different threats and new problems both at home and abroad.”  The queen cited terrorism, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change and poverty eradication as “problems certainly no less complex than those faced by our 20th-century forebears.”

Of course, “administrations in your country, and governments in mine, may come and go,” said the queen.  “But talk we will; listen we have to; disagree from time to time we may; but united we must always remain.”