Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed many engagements with American presidents over the years, beginning with Harry Truman while she was still a princess and ending with a visit from Joe Biden some 70 years later.
The queen made plenty of headlines while nurturing the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, ranging from the serious to the humorous to the bizarre. Below, we recount some of the most memorable moments between the queen and her friends at the White House.
Early days: Meeting Truman as a princess
Elizabeth met with 13 sitting presidents during her time as the British monarch, Lyndon B. Johnson being the only president she didn’t meet. She even met Herbert Hoover some two decades after he left the White House and mingled with Truman in 1951 while she was still a princess. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was in attendance as well during the Truman meeting, a sign of things to come for the royal couple.
Eisenhower: Gifts and recipes
As a young monarch, Elizabeth met with President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House during her first state visit to the U.S. in 1957. Eisenhower wore a British Order of Merit that had been given to him by the queen’s father, King George VI.
Two years later, they met again at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Elizabeth made quite an impression — Eisenhower and his wife were so impressed with her English drop scones that she later sent them the recipe.
Just months after taking office, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy Onassis enjoyed a state dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1961. This meeting of so many icons produced plenty of gossip and was even depicted in the Netflix series The Crown. Jackie Kennedy returned for a solo engagement nine months later.
The queen did not attend JFK’s funeral, owing to numerous circumstances, including the fact that she was pregnant. Philip attended instead.
Dedication and dances with Ford
The queen celebrated two important milestones during Gerald Ford’s short presidency. One was the bicentennial of the American Revolution, during which a state dinner was held in the queen’s honor. She danced with Ford during the event, but unfortunately, the band began playing “The Lady is a Tramp” during their engagement.
The pair also witnessed the completion of the nave and west rose window inside the National Cathedral in northwest Washington. After the queen’s death, the church’s bells tolled 96 times in her honor.
Carter kisses the Queen Mother
Georgia-born President Jimmy Carter committed one of the most famous royal faux pas, kissing the Queen Mother on the lips instead of bowing during a 1977 meeting. She said later that “nobody has done that since my husband died.”
A special relationship with Reagan
The queen enjoyed an especially close relationship with Ronald Reagan, as the two bonded over their shared love of horses. Reagan became the first president to stay at Windsor Castle and the first to host the queen at his private residence.
The two were scheduled to ride horses outside Reagan’s California ranch, but the ride was scrapped due to rain. Elizabeth later quipped, “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.”
Elizabeth later made Reagan an honorary knight, due in part to America’s assistance to the U.K. during the Falklands War.
Baseball with Bush
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush treated the queen to an entirely different kind of sporting event — an American baseball game. The pair attended a Baltimore Orioles game (there was no MLB team in Washington at the time) at the old Memorial Stadium, which the team abandoned for Oriole Park at Camden Yards one year later.
The queen also took a tour of the Alamo with the elder Bush, becoming the first monarch to visit Texas.
Final White House visit and a Bushism
In 2007, the queen visited the White House for what proved to be the final time for a meeting with President George W. Bush.
The visit was made memorable by one of George W. Bush’s famous Bushisms, wherein the president referred to her bicentennial visit in 1976 as having happened in 1776.
He then added, smiling, “She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child.”
Elizabeth later took her own shot at humor during a dinner at the British Embassy, saying, “I wondered whether I should start this toast by saying, ‘When I was here in 1776.”
Michelle’s famous hug
Barack and Michelle Obama’s 2009 visit to Buckingham Palace is remembered mostly for the first lady’s “hug.” Like Carter, Michelle Obama unknowingly committed another royal faux pas, though the queen did return the embrace. The women apparently were bonding over their shared struggles with painful shoes.
The final meeting
Biden was the last president to meet with Elizabeth, doing so in June 2021 at Windsor Castle.
Biden made a surprise visit to the British Embassy in Washington after her death, writing in a book of condolences along with his wife, first lady Jill Biden. The president has said the queen “defined an era.”
Though arrangements for the queen’s funeral have yet to be announced, Joe Biden has already committed to being there when the time comes, adding one final chapter to her long history with American commanders in chief.