WASHINGTON - Washington turned out adoring schoolchildren and ladies in hats for Queen Elizabeth II's visit. The White House laid on special touches, too, at President Bush's first white-tie state dinner to honor America's closest ally and make the queen feel welcome.
The centuries-old vermeil flatware and candelabras came from a London silversmith. A made-of-sugar reproduction of the queen's 1953 coronation rose graced the cake. English farmhouse cheeses accompanied the salad course.
And the traditional "special guest" invited only at the last minute was sure to be of interest to an avid horse enthusiast such as the queen: Calvin Borel, the jockey who rode Street Sense to victory in the Kentucky Derby this weekend with the royals in attendance.
On the other hand, there was Bush suggesting the queen was more than 230 years old. His slip of the tongue during welcoming speeches was quickly smoothed over with humor. But it wasn't exactly the flawless effort Bush had hoped would erase memories of the "talking hat" episode during the queen's last U.S. visit. (In 1991, during the administration of Bush's father, a too-tall lectern left the audience able to see only the queen's hat behind microphones.)
Yesterday, the queen, a sprightly 81, gave Bush a gracious nod after he thanked her for the trip in which "you helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 . . . in 1976."
Then he smiled and quipped, "She gave me a look that only a mother could give a child," earning a reserved chuckle from his guest.
In their formal remarks, Bush focused on the U.S.-British partnership in Iraq and against terrorism. In just four minutes, he mentioned freedom and liberty seven times. "Your majesty, I appreciate your leadership during these times of danger and decision," he said. By contrast, the queen said her fifth U.S. visit over 50 years was an occasion to "step back from our current preoccupations."
The day had the White House at its freshly painted best, and throngs hoping for a glimpse of royalty lined Pennsylvania Avenue for much of the day.
The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were treated to a trumpet fanfare, a 21-gun salute, and a parade by the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps at an arrival ceremony attended by thousands of guests. From there, the Bushes and the royals repaired to an exclusive lunch. Later, the two leaders mingled on the street with dozens of British and U.S. children.
Bush followed while the queen accepted bouquets and signed autographs.
Despite the excitement and hundreds of hours of preparation, Laura Bush suggested that the evening's white-tie dinner could be not only the Bushes' first but also their last. She called it, somewhat wistfully, "the most elegant and most formal that we'll host."
Read remarks by President Bush and Queen Elizabeth made on the South Lawn of the White House at http://go.philly.com/queenbush
See video of the pomp and pageantry at http://go.philly.com/queenatwhitehouse