The Queen met 13 sitting US presidents, who basked in her global prestige

US President Barack Obama speaks with Queen Elizabeth II during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace on May 24, 2011. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - They danced with her, rode horses together and went for a boat ride or a picnic. They took her to church or a baseball game. They hosted her or were hosted by her for gala dinners and receptions. Most of all, they basked in her global prestige and historical majesty.

Queen Elizabeth met 13 sitting presidents of the United States during her long life, which has to be some kind of record, not to mention a test of diplomatic fortitude. Just when she broke in one, another would come along and she would dutifully roll out the red carpet or buckle up on her royal jet for yet another visit to the White House.

She personally knew all of them, from Mr Harry Truman to Mr Joe Biden, with the lone exception of Mr Lyndon Johnson. And while she surely preferred some over others, she was gracious and welcoming to all, forgiving protocol mistakes and inspiring Republicans and Democrats alike.

For each president, meeting the Queen was typically a high point of their tenure, in some ways a validation of their stature on the world stage.

"You really made it when you welcomed the Queen to your home," said Mr Alvin Felzenberg, a presidential historian who worked in the administrations of Mr George H.W. Bush and Mr George W. Bush.

"You have really made it when she comes to visit you and talks to the American people about the bonds between the two countries. I think they all thought that," he added.

Mother, grandmother, queen

President Joe Biden with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, on June 13, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Her last president was Mr Biden, who first met her as a senator in 1982 and visited her last year as America's chief executive.

"I don't think she'd be insulted, but she reminded me of my mother in terms of the look of her and just the generosity," he said at the time.

Mr Biden was not the only one to see her in maternal terms.

The Queen "reminded me of my own mother in her appearance, politeness and reserve", Mrs Hillary Clinton observed in one of her memoirs.

Mrs Michelle Obama, for her part, said the Queen "reminded Barack of his no-nonsense grandmother".

The first time Queen Elizabeth shared a room with a president, she was not yet queen and the American in question was not yet president.

One day, during World War II, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower came to Windsor Castle for a tour, the young princess and other family members, including her father, King George VI, playfully ducked under a table until the visiting American party left.

She met Mr Truman before her coronation as well. In 1951, she and her husband, Prince Philip, stayed with the Trumans at Blair House, where they were living during a White House renovation.

Mr Truman called them a "wonderful young couple who have so completely captured the hearts of all of us".

'The Lady Is A Tramp'

Queen Elizabeth (in yellow) and then US President Ronald Reagan (centre) at Buckingham Palace on Sept 6, 1984. PHOTO: AFP

She became queen in 1952, near the end of Mr Truman's term. Five years later, she was reunited with Mr Eisenhower in a more formal way when she visited the US and stayed at the White House with the president for four days, going to church with him and charming his grandchildren.

"This was one ceremonial visit that we were sorry to see end," Mr Eisenhower later reported.

When he visited her in England two years later, she showed him her Balmoral estate, personally taking the wheel of her station wagon and cooking scones over a charcoal burner at a lakeside picnic.

Mr Eisenhower liked them so much he asked for the recipe, which she later sent.

The Queen hosted Mr John Kennedy and Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy for a state dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1961, bringing together American political royalty with its British counterpart.

The president met the future queen when his father, Mr Joseph Kennedy, was ambassador to Britain, while Mrs Kennedy covered Queen Elizabeth's coronation as a young journalist for the Washington Times-Herald.

Although the Queen never met Mr Johnson while he was in office, a time of tension between Washington and London over the Vietnam War, she hosted Mr Richard Nixon in 1969 shortly after he became president.

She came to Washington in 1976 to celebrate the US bicentennial and danced with Mr Gerald Ford at the White House. In a gaffe, they happened to take the floor at the moment the Marine Band was playing "The Lady Is A Tramp", which caused plenty of awkward chagrin.

From Carter to Clinton

Queen Elizabeth and then US President Bill Clinton toast during the Guildhall dinner in Portsmouth, Britain, on June 4, 1994. PHOTO: REUTERS

But the Queen had a sense of humour. When she met Mr Jimmy Carter, she joked that she needed to watch her waist because she had seven different tunics to wear as commander of various guards, and she did not want to have to get new ones.

But he reportedly left sour feelings by greeting the Queen mother with a kiss instead of a bow.

Mr Ronald Reagan delighted in the Queen more than most. He loved horseback riding with her and described his visit to Windsor Castle in his diary as "a fairy tale experience".

Like other presidents, including the Bushes, Mr Reagan was said to be distantly related to the Queen.

The elder Mr Bush in 1991 hosted one of the more memorable state visits for the Queen. When she took the podium, no one had taken account of her short stature, so her face was hidden from television cameras by the microphone, and all anyone could see was the bright purple hat she was wearing. It came to be called the Talking Hat Speech.

At the state dinner, the Queen met the president's eldest son. Still in his younger scamp days, Mr George W. Bush lifted his pant leg to show off his cowboy boots and proudly declared that he was the black sheep of the family.

"Do you have any in yours?" he asked.

Queen Elizabeth leads then US President George W. Bush in a tour of St. George's Hall at Windsor Castle on June 15, 2008. PHOTO: AFP

His father, though, was determined to give the Queen a down-to-earth experience to match the grandiose White House dinner, so he took her to see the Baltimore Orioles.

When Mr Bill Clinton was president, the Queen laughed at his stories and probed him for insights on world affairs without betraying her own political views, which would be taboo for the monarch.

"Her Majesty impressed me as someone who, but for the circumstance of her birth, might have become a successful politician or diplomat," Mr Clinton wrote in his memoir. "As it was, she had to be both, without quite seeming to be either."

Gaffes galore

The younger Mr Bush then met the Queen again when he became president.

Welcoming her in 2007 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, he said, "You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 - " He caught himself before finishing the date as 1776, when of course he meant 1976.

The Queen, then 81, noticed the slip. "She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child," Mr Bush noted wryly.

At a dinner at the British embassy the next night, she said, "I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, 'When I was here in 1776'."

Mr Bush was not the last resident of the White House to have a gaffe during a meeting with the Queen.

When Mrs Michelle Obama affectionately put her arm around the Queen's shoulder, an uproar ensued, although Queen Elizabeth did not seem to mind since she put her arm around the first lady.

"She showed me that humanity is more important than protocol or formality," Mrs Obama later wrote.

Queen Elizabeth escorts then US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump in Windsor Castle on July 13, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

Mr Donald Trump similarly set social media ablaze when he walked in front of the Queen while inspecting an honour guard.

Mr Trump was particularly anxious to meet the Queen, noting that his Scottish-born mother admired her. He wanted some sort of public display different from what his predecessors had, prompting his staff to compile charts about past presidential meetings with the Queen.

"Trump was clearly an admirer himself and was always slightly awestruck when he talked about her - his voice and his face would soften," Ms Fiona Hill, who managed Europe relations on Mr Trump's National Security Council staff, recalled in her book. A meeting with the Queen of England was the ultimate sign that he, Mr Trump, had made it in life." NYTIMES

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