Queen Elizabeth II has held the throne for more than six decades, which makes her the longest-reigning queen in the world. Throughout this time, she hasmet with 13 different presidents of the United States, and it’s clear that she likes some of them more than others.
The Queen appeared to really enjoy her time with Ronald Reagan while her visit with Jimmy Carter didn’t go well at all, but he has himself to blame for that!
If you thought your family dinners were tough, see how some of our nation’s presidents classically cracked under the pressure of meeting the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II’s First Presidential Visit Was When She Was a Princess
Born into royalty, Queen Elizabeth II was no amateur by the time she took the throne. She first met a U.S. president in 1951 when she was still a Princess and she and Philip were visiting Washington D.C. Her father was ill, so Elizabeth represented the royal family at just 25 years old.
Elizabeth and her husband charmed Harry Truman and rode with him in his motorcade. They were only in D.C. for two days, but she left a lasting impression on the President, who said, “Never before have we had such a wonderful young couple, who have so completely captured the hearts of all of us.”
The Queen Meets Dwight Eisenhower
Queen Elizabeth II paid her first visit to the United States while holding the throne in 1957. This was during the Cold War when tensions were high in the U.S. However, the young Queen made sure to balance her visit between duty and pleasure.
Eisenhower and the Queen first met when she was still a Princess, and Eisenhower befriended her parents. They maintained a good relationship and traveled on the Queen’s yacht together. During one visit, an American congressman yelled, “We have all fallen in love with the Queen, Ike!” If only all foreign relations carried on this well.
The Kennedys Pay the Queen a Visit
In 1961, John F. Kennedy was President of the United States. He and his wife Jackie Kennedy traveled to England only a few months after his inauguration. When they arrived in London, half a million people were there to greet them.
The royal family welcomed the Kennedys for a state dinner at Buckingham Palace that included a banquet held in their honor and a lavish spread of food. It’s hard to say who was more excited about the visit.
Bill Clinton’s Visit Was Uneventful, But Hillary Slipped Up Later
As mentioned, Americans, even the President and First Lady, are not entirely hip to royal protocol and this can cause a few glitches. President Bill Clinton met with the Queen several times during his presidency, including during a banquet honoring the 50th anniversary of WWII’s D-Day.
Things went smoothly, but it was Hillary Clinton’s flub in 2010 that the Queen tried to ignore. Clinton released an official statement wishing the Queen a happy birthday and reflecting on the “special relationship” that the U.S. has with England. She should have checked her calendar another time because the statement was released a week before Her Royal Majesty’s second, “official” birthday. Clinton was forgiven, as the second birthday’s date in June changes from year to year. Her real birthday is April 21.
Obama Was Smitten By The Queen
President Barack Obama’s visit to Buckingham Palace went better than Bush’s. In 2011, Obama met Queen Elizabeth II during a state visit and presented her with a very thoughtful gift. The president handed the Queen an album containing photos and memorabilia from her parents’ trips to the United States. However, Michelle Obama appeared to break protocol by touching the Queen, which she laughed about later. “I touched her!” the First Lady recalled, clarifying that because the Queen had put her hand on Obama’s back first, she felt it “was the nice thing to do!”
President Obama said of the Queen, “She is truly one of my favorite people.” Barack and Michelle met with the Queen twice more while he was in office, including on Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.
Nixon and the Queen Exchanged Autographs
Richard Nixon was the next U.S. president to pay the Queen a visit, in 1969. He and the Queen had already met while he was vice president, and Nixon’s visit was informal, especially compared to the warm reception that the Kennedys received.
Nixon was invited over to Buckingham Palace where he and the Queen exchanged signed photos of themselves. It’s said that the president was fascinated with the British monarchy and returned the following year for a formal visit.
Gerald Ford Was On His Best Behavior
In 1976, the Queen paid a visit to the United States while Gerald Ford was in office. The year marked the 200th anniversary of America’s declaration of independence from Britain, and at that point, the two countries had strong relations. President Gerald Ford told her, “The United States [has] never forgotten its British heritage.”
Ford was well-prepped and ready to host the Queen. After the visit First Lady Betty Ford wrote, “The Queen was easy to deal with. If I hadn’t kept mixing up Your Highness and Your Majesty, I’d give myself four stars for the way that visit went off.”
A Large Trump Baby Balloon
The people of London were prepped and ready ahead of President Trump’s visit to Windsor Castle in July of 2018, but it wasn’t for the reasons you’d think. The President was met with huge protests as 250,000 turned out to oppose his visit. The crowd even flew a large balloon through the streets that resembled Trump as an angry baby, which the mayor of London approved ahead of the protest.
In 2019, Trump returned to the United Kingdom to meet with the Queen. This time the protests got personal as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn boycotted the first night’s State Dinner. While visiting, Trump discussed climate change with Theresa May and commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
George H.W. Bush Didn’t Consider Moving to Britain
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara traveled to London to meet the Queen. Reagan was a hard act to follow, so we can’t blame Bush for not sweeping the Queen off her feet.
The President and First Lady were given a tour of Buckingham Palace, and also met with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Bush begrudgingly listened as Thatcher gave him “a lecture on freedom.” But as the U.S. presidents are coached ahead of time, he sat politely and took it with a grain of salt.
George W. Bush Was Not Welcomed By The U.K.
When President George W. Bush visited the Queen in London in 2003, he was not given a warm welcome by the U.K. When he stepped off of Air Force One, 100,000 people were protesting in the streets. They were angry with America’s involvement in the Iraq War, and did not want America’s president on their home turf. Security alone cost the U.K. millions.
Once they arrived at Buckingham Palace, however, Bush and First Lady Laura were honored with a 41-gun salute and a lavish dinner. This wouldn’t be the last time a U.S. president’s visit would be protested.
Jimmy Carter Totally Messed Up
Ah, Jimmy Carter. The former President of the United States should have left his Southern charm at home because the Georgia native totally blew it when it came to royal protocol and the Queen.
In 1977, Carter was in Europe during a NATO summit and the Queen invited him to Buckingham Palace for dinner. It would be the one and only time that Carter would meet with the royal family. While talking to the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth, Carter went right in and kissed the Queen Mother on the lips! She was outraged, and told him, “Nobody has done that since my husband died!”
A Royal Princess In A Presidential Motorcade
Here is another photograph of then-Princess Elizabeth during a meeting with President Harry S. Truman. After a reception to welcome Elizabeth and Philip to the United States, during which “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, the President accompanied her in a motorcade.
When Truman greeted the Princess and the Duke of Edinburgh, he fondly told them that “when you leave you will like us even better than when you came.” Elizabeth also met First Lady Bess Truman and First Daughter Margaret during her visit to the U.S.
Ronald Reagan Was The First President To Stay Overnight At Windsor Castle
After Jimmy Carter royally messed up his visit to England, Ronald Reagan cleaed the air. In 1982 the former actor traveled to England with his wife Nancy, where the couple was welcomed to stay at Windsor Castle. He would be the first president to do so, and it was clear that Queen Elizabeth II took a liking to Reagan.
Reagan rode horses and described the trip as a “fairytale visit” and noted in his memoir that it was one of his favorite experiences while holding office.
President Eisenhower Visits Scotland
President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Queen and her family at their home, Balmoral Castle, in Scotland. The year was 1959 and by this time Elizabeth had two children: Princess Anne and Prince Charles. Prince Andrew would be born just five months later.
During this informal trip to the UK, Eisenhower also visited Prime Minister Harold Macmillan at Chequers Court. Pictured above are Prince Philip, Princess Anne, President Eisenhower, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Captain John Eisenhower (the President’s son).
Was There Drama During The Kennedy Visit To Buckingham Palace?
In certain tell-all books and TV shows, it’s been alleged that there was lots of drama surrounding the Kennedys’ 1961 visit to Buckingham Palace. Jackie Kennedy’s sister Lee Radziwill (and her then-husband) had been divorced, and divorcées were traditionally not welcome at State Dinners.
Although the Palace eventually gave in and invited the Radziwills, it’s said that the Queen was not happy. To get her “revenge,” she left two people that Jackie had requested to meet off the guest list: Princess Margaret and Princess Marina. We don’t know how much truth there is to this story. But both Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Kennedy’s chief of protocol, Angier Biddle Duke, said later that the event had been “very pleasant.”
A Somber Visit With The Former First Lady
In a letter to the Queen after the dinner, President Kennedy wrote: “We shall always cherish the memory of that delightful evening.” Sadly, he did not live to see another visit to Buckingham Palace as he was tragically assassinated in 1963. Following his death, the British government established a Kennedy Memorial Trust which consists of a memorial in Runnymede, England, as well as a scholarship.
The memorial was dedicated by the Queen in May of 1965. Jackie and her children, as well as brothers-in-law Bobby and Ted, attended the service. During her speech, Queen Elizabeth said, “The unprecedented intensity of that wave of grief… which swept over our people at the news of President Kennedy’s assassination, was a measure of the extent to which we recognized what he had already accomplished, and of the high hopes that rode with him in a future that was not to be.”
Joe Biden Breached Protocol By Revealing This
On June 11, 2021, Queen Elizabeth hosted President Biden and first lady Jill Biden to tea at Windsor Castle. Wearing a pink silk dress, the queen appeared relaxed as she greeted the Bidens outside. They then disappeared into the castle for a private 45-minute long chat.
Biden is the 13th President the Queen has met, and the fifth she has invited to Windsor Castle. While the meeting is said to have gone well, President Biden is being accused of breaking royal protocol! He disclosed the specific topics the two spoke about, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and left his sunglasses on while greeting her, which royal experts say is a no-no.
Queen Elizabeth Met Nixon When He Was Vice-President
Queen Elizabeth first met Nixon when he was Vice President (under Dwight Eisenhower). In 1957 she and Prince Philip visited the United States, where they were escorted by Nixon. The following year, Nixon traveled to the United Kingdom to attend the dedication of the American Memorial Chapel in London.
Pictured here are the Queen and Nixon during a processional through St. Paul’s Cathedral. Leading is Sir Harold Gillett, the Lord Mayor of London. Next are Queen Elizabeth and Nixon, then Prince Philip with Pat Nixon. Next are Princess Margaret, Princess Alexandra, and American Ambassador John Hay Whitney.
There Was A Torrential Downpour When The Fords Hosted The Queen
During the Queen’s 1976 visit to Washington, President Ford and his wife Betty hosted an elaborate dinner in her honor. You’d never know by looking at this photo that this dinner took place in a tent, or that there was a torrential downpour happening outside. Betty Ford was prepared for bad weather, luckily.
In her memoir, she recalled: “An hour and a half before the Queen’s dinner, there was a sudden downpour with torrential rain, thunder, lightning. Three trees on the White House grounds were struck. Fortunately, I’d insisted that our tent have a floor… ‘We’ll have a floor and a carpet,’ I’d said. ‘It will be just like a room.'” Disaster averted!
Betty Ford Wore A Hat In Honor Of The Queen
Betty Ford greatly admired the Queen and went out of her way to ensure that the Royal visit went off without a hitch. In her autobiography, Ford said: The Queen was easy to deal with. She was very definite about what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She loves Bob Hope and Telly Savalas, so we invited Bob Hope and Telly Savalas — both came."
The First Lady even wore a hat for her meeting with the Queen – an accessory she wasn’t usually spotted in. This charming photo shows Ford giving Queen Elizabeth the official tour of the White House during the July 1976 visit.
Ronald Reagan Was Knighted By The Queen
The Reagans made three official visits to visit the Queen in the UK; in 1982, 1984, and 1988. In 1989, after Reagan’s Presidency had ended, The Queen bestowed the title of Knight on him in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. This is the highest honor that non-Britons can receive from the Palace.
The Queen then escorted the Reagans out to their car to say goodbye. And she once again showed what a great sense of humor she has, as she jokingly warned Mr. Reagan “not to drop” the box containing his honorary insignia. Reagan responded: “I can’t say how proud I am to receive it.”
The Queen Met Jimmy Carter Before He Was President
When the Queen was in Washington for 1976’s Bicentennial celebrations, she met former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Later that same year he was elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford in a tight race.
It was the following year, in May of 1977, when Carter paid a visit to the Queen in London and planted the infamous kiss on the Queen Mother’s lips. Of that incident, the Queen Mother later said, “I took a sharp step backwards – not quite far enough.” The above photo shows the Queen, Prince Philip, and Carter at a dinner in Buckingham Palace’s Blue Drawing Room. Conspicuously absent? The Queen Mother.
The Queen Left Ronald Reagan In Stitches
Queen Elizabeth is said to have a very keen sense of humor, and here’s photographic evidence of that fact. This snapshot was taken as the Queen gave an address at a state dinner held at San Francisco’s De Young Museum in 1983.
Just what has the Queen said to amuse the President so much? It turns out it was a joke about the northern California weather, delivered impeccably with a straight face. “I knew before we came that we had exported many of our traditions to the United States. But I had not realized before that weather was one of them,” she dead-panned.
Maybe She Wasn’t Joking About The Weather After All
Here, we see Queen Elizabeth being warmly greeted by President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at their Rancho Del Cielo, California, home during her 1983 visit. All three appear to be amused at something; possibly it’s the uncooperative weather that the Queen has had to travel through in order to reach the ranch. Prince Philip accompanied Elizabeth.
Helen Thomas, UPI White House Reporter, later described the weather’s effect on the Royal visit. “Despite heavy rains and flooded roads, the president and Mrs. Reagan managed to overcome all obstacles to entertain her majesty and Duke of Edinburgh at their 688-acre mountaintop ranch Tuesday.”
The Queen Attended A Baseball Game With George H.W. Bush
President George H.W. Bush only made one official visit to Buckingham Palace, but that was not the only time he met Queen Elizabeth. In 1991 he and First Lady Barbara took the Queen and Prince Phillip to watch the Orioles play the Oakland Athletics at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
Queen Elizabeth, 65 years old at the time, wore a blue and red dress for the occasion. The song “Brown-Eyed Girl” was played over the stadium’s public-address system as the foursome found their seats. Orioles’ shortstop Cal Ripken shook hands with the Queen in the dugout. Later, he said, “I’ve been playing baseball for 10 years, and I’m used to a normal atmosphere. This is a lot different. There’s a lot of excitement.” It was also noted that Oakland player Jose Canseco chewed gum while shaking hands with the visiting dignitaries.
George H.W. Bush Complimented The Queen’s Walking Routine During A State Dinner
During the Queen’s 1991 visit to the United States, she became the first British monarch to address the United States Congress. She and Prince Philip were also hosted by the Bushes at an extravagant state dinner at the White House on this tour.
During the dinner, President Bush remarked that both the U.S. and the U.K. share a love of exercise. He then complimented the Queen on her frequent walks, saying that some of them “have left even the Secret Service panting.” He continued, “I’m glad my fibrillating heart was not taxed by a competitive walk-off.”
The Queen Shoveled Dirt At The White House During A Visit With George H.W. Bush
This is not a sight we’re used to seeing: the Queen of England digging with a shovel in the hot July sun as an American President and First Lady stand by. But it happened! And it makes much more sense when you know the backstory. This was during the Queen’s 1991 visit to the United States.
The Queen is planting a little-leaf linden tree on the South Lawn of the White House Grounds. She’s replacing one that her father, King George VI, planted in the same place during a 1937 visit. That tree was unfortunately lost to a storm in 1990. Also, it’s likely that someone else did the bulk of the digging as the Queen is not in her gardening clothes here.
The Clinton Family Had Tea With The Queen
In 2000, President Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea paid a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Clinton was on the last day of a three-day trip to Britain, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. They didn’t all have tea, though. Clinton later reported that he drank coffee during the meeting with the Queen. Hillary did have tea, and presumably, the Queen did as well.
The President also had this to say about Queen Elizabeth. “I always marvel when we meet at what a keen judge she is of human events. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her very much.”
George W. Bush Nearly Suggested That The Queen Was 231 Years Old
We’ve already read that George W. Bush’s 2003 meeting with the Queen was marred by protests. In 2007 Queen Elizabeth visited the White House and was greeted by President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Unfortunately for Bush, he flubbed some numbers during his welcome speech. When speaking about the Queen’s familiarity with the U.S., Bush said to her, “After all, you’ve dined with 10 US presidents. You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 – 1976.”
He caught himself before saying the full “1776” but the damage was done. Although many in the audience laughed, Elizabeth “did not appear to share the general merriment.” Bush overcame the gaffe with a joke: “She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.” The Queen finally laughed at that.
Obama Talked Over The British National Anthem
Just because the Queen and the Obamas seem to have a very close relationship, doesn’t mean that things always go perfectly. In 2011, Barack Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Buckingham Palace since 2003. Things started off well, with Obama beginning a toast to the Queen during a State Banquet.
He stood and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, please stand with me and raise your glasses as I propose a toast. To her majesty the Queen.” This was the orchestra’s cue to play “God Save the Queen,” the national anthem. And President Obama continued to talk right over it (a no-no!) for a few more sentences before realizing his error. One BBC commentator called the gaffe a “mishap.” In true Obama fashion, he later joked that the song was “like a soundtrack” to his speech.
Trump Walked In Front Of The Queen
Certainly, most Americans couldn’t be expected to remember every tiny detail of royal protocol. After all, it’s a complex and complicated system of rules and guidelines that even royals forget at times. But many observers were quick to point out something Trump did that seems like it falls under the category of “standard courtesy for your hostess.” He appeared to cut off the Queen and then walked in front of her for several moments.
This took place as the Queen and President Trump inspected the royal honor guard together. At times it seemed that the Queen was forced to side-step him in order to regain her place. The incident blew up on social media, with thousands of comments like “Even if she wasn’t the Queen, wouldn’t you let an elderly lady walk ahead of you??” appearing within moments.