Click here to learn more about White House History Quarterly 64: Queen Elizabeth II: The Royal Visits:
Queen Elizabeth II visited the United States as princess and queen, officially and privately, eight times, from 1951 to 2010, never failing to make front page news. With the press documenting nearly every smile, speech, and backdrop as America watched, she met more U.S. presidents than any other head of state, thirteen of the fourteen who have served during her reign.
Historic photographs from October 31, 1951, show the routines of life in the nation’s capital paused for her first arrival as thousands line closed streets for a glimpse of her waving beside President Harry S. Truman in the back of an open top convertible in a lengthy motorcade. They would be witnesses to a moment at the outset of her life’s work of service to her country, during which she would strengthen the Anglo-American relationship through a continuum of official visits and less formal excursions that took her to cities from coast to coast. She in turn would witness seventy years of White House history, and experience first-hand the White House traditions that would begin and end, evolve and endure over seventy years. Friendship is a recurring theme in the words she spoke on every visit and a motivation for the extent of her travels. “From time to time, friendships must be publicly reaffirmed,” she explained during a 1983 State Dinner in her honor.
During her annual Christmas Day message in 2021, she drew attention to the milestone noting, “February . . . will see the start of my Platinum Jubilee year, which I hope will be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness, a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last 70 years—social, scientific and cultural—and also to look ahead with confidence.” This unprecedented occasion provides a fitting time for White House History Quarterly to focus on White House history through the extraordinary experience of Queen Elizabeth II.
Curator Candace Shireman opens the issue with a behind the scenes look at the queen’s four stays at The Blair House.
Curator Sally Goodsir of Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Collection Trust shares a glimpse at the official gifts exchanged by the queen with U.S. presidents.
Historian Alan Capps takes us back to 1976 and 2007 when Queen Elizabeth II joined America in celebrating the bicentennial of its independence and the four-hundredth anniversary of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Culinary Historian Alexander Prud’homme goes behind the scenes to the White House Kitchen during the Bicentennial visit when his great-aunt, Julia Child, spent the evening reporting for PBS.
As both guest and host, Queen Elizabeth II has shared wine, a universal symbol of hospitality, with many presidents of the United States. Political historian Colleen Shogan looks at the traditional practice of toasting with wine and the rhetoric of diplomacy while Frederick J. Ryan details the selection of each vintage served.
As she publicly reaffirmed her friendship with the United States, Queen Elizabeth made excursions beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that took her from the supermarket to Hollywood, but perhaps her most adventurous journey was made by van, up a treacherous mountain top road during a torrential downpour. That journey, recounted by Sarah Thomson with our Quarterly presidential sites article, brought the queen to President Ronald Reagan’s private California home, the Rancho del Cielo. Unfazed by the danger, the queen found the adventure “exciting”—an appropriate word to describe the long friendship itself.
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