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Trembling Feet, Royal Protocol Armageddon and a Wink

I love to read of the telling actions of highly placed people, especially when it involves their response to challenging and unfamiliar situations. The “humanity” and sameness of us all intrigues me. While I certainly know I will never meet Queen Elizabeth or President Bush, I enjoy thinking of the preparation each of them must have made for their recent meetings with each other. And, again, though I will never be in the presence of royalty, throughout my lifetime, there have been times when I brushed up on etiquette rules and considered essential protocol for certain meetings. For of course, I want to be “cool” when I meet VIPs, avoiding any profound gaffes.

So then, I snickered and laughed aloud when I read this article about our President and the Queen at last night’s white tie dinner. Think what you may of President Bush, I believe almost everyone would agree that he possess a boyish, tender side to him. I can just see his shoes tapping away from the Queenly visit jitters.

Hope Matt Frei doesn’t mind, but I’ve brought over his entire article from BBC. It’s a charming piece.

Washington diary: Royal jitters

By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

Queen Elizabeth II and George W Bush at the White House for a state dinner

The Bush White House hosted its first white tie dinner for the Queen

I have seen George Bush fumble for grammar, cringe in front of the cameras and shrug off insults from world leaders.

I have seen him joust gamely with opponents and stare down enemies with a cold eye.

But I have never, ever seen the commander-in-chief of the mightiest nation on earth look utterly terrified.

This week an elderly lady, who is at least a head smaller than the president and who, by all accounts, has never harmed a fly, achieved – unwittingly – what Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Nancy Pelosi have all tried and failed to do: reduce George Walker Bush to a quivering mass, make his lower lip tremble and – I promise you I saw it with my own eyes – make him blush to the roots of his Texan rind.

Yes, the 43rd President of the United States was smitten by her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Memorable gaffe

The endearing thing about George Bush is that his body language and the spoken variety both betray his true emotions at every turn.

At Monday night’s state dinner, the first white tie event in the Bush White House, a pair of lacquered black shoes could be seen virtually tap dancing with jitters on the red carpet next to the royal footwear.

George W Bush welcomes the Queen to the White House

Her Majesty was not amused by President Bush’s gaffe – and wink

Then there was George Bush’s hesitant “should I sit or should I stand” toast which left the Queen on her feet, sipping her Riesling all by herself.

The most memorable gaffe had been committed earlier that day, when the president almost implied that the Queen was 200 years older than her current age by thanking her for attending America’s bicentennial celebrations in 1776.

He corrected himself mid-date, then did what he often does in sticky circumstances. He winked, smiled and lunged for recovery.

The Queen was heard to mutter: “Wrong year!”

The president responded with disarming honesty. The Queen had given him “a look that only a mother could give a child” he told his guests and the world, under a glorious Washington May sky.

Call me churlish, but I thought this was a charming escape from Royal Protocol Armageddon.

To my knowledge no reigning Queen of England had ever been winked at.

The first Elizabeth would surely have had George Bush’s guts for garters. This one responded with dead-pan aloofness. Her Majesty was not amused.

There wasn’t even a flicker of a smile and the stiff upper lip of the House of Windsor remained resolutely stiff in the land of the free.

Shared ancestry

If I may take the presumptuous role of presidential shrink for a moment, I would say there are three reasons for George Bush’s quivers.

Barbara Bush and her son George W Bush

Does the Queen remind Mr Bush of another matriarch in his life?

It is not royalty per se that makes American presidents nervous. It is British royalty.

For all the loathing of the Red Coats, Mad King George and British colonial rule, America feels the Stockholm syndrome of its ancestry. Even an abused child sent for adoption is fascinated by his or her real mother.

Secondly the Queen probably reminds George Bush of his own Mama, the formidable Barbara, the matriarch of the Bush clan, who apparently raised her eldest son with a patrician mixture of love and discipline.

He may argue with his father over Iraq and diplomacy. They have a vexed relationship. But, I’m told, it is the mother he cherishes and dares not contradict.

Britain is to history what Saudi Arabia is to crude oil. We have lashings of it and don’t feel the need to draw attention to it


The third point is a more general one about the role of Britain’s history in the United States.

Americans nurture their historical shoots like a gardener fusses over a sapling. In Virginia, where the rich earth moans with the memories of the civil war, the war of independence and the lives of the founding fathers, every brick and beam dating back a hundred years or more is festooned with a plaque.

History is such a precious commodity because it is so rare in a young nation.

By comparison Britain is to history what Saudi Arabia is to crude oil. We have lashings of it and don’t feel the need to draw attention to it.

The Queen and Vice-President Dick Cheney watch a performance at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Americans are proud of their young nation’s relatively short history

Despite lattes and paninis, suicide bombs in London and the foreign takeover of English football, Britain lives, breathes and governs unselfconsciously in a historical context.

Which American politician doesn’t at some stage enlist the help of the founding fathers or invoke the American dream enshrined in the Bill of Rights? Which British politician ever mentions the Magna Carta?

For Americans, the Queen and her pageantry embody an exotic reality tinged with a whiff of shared ancestry.

It is a matter of affection mixed with curiosity verging, sometimes, on incomprehension.

It is the same attitude found when Washington grandees munch cucumber sandwiches on the British ambassador’s lawn and are too polite to ask about the missing crust.

By Shirley Buxton

Still full of life and ready to be on the move, Shirley at 83 years old feels blessed to have lots of energy and to be full of optimism. She was married to Jerry for 63 years, and grieves yet at his death in August of 2019. They have 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren...all beautiful and highly intelligent--of course. :)

11 replies on “Trembling Feet, Royal Protocol Armageddon and a Wink”

Anna, I believe most people like “real.” We’re sick of plastic and artificiality, and that’s one reason that President Bush is appealing. Oh, I know, I know, some readers here hate him and refuse to acknowledge our booming economy, our over-the-top stock market, our reasonable and steady interest rates…and on…

Thanks for your interest here and for your comments.


I love President Bush! I don’t think he always does everything right, but who would or could in his shoes. Sometimes I don’t know whether I am glad he is president or frustrated with the decisions he makes.

I love him because to the best of his ability for the office he holds, he is real. That means ten times more to me than having a president with a glib tongue, enough charisma to charm a snake (or the queen;)), and the greedy guts to sell America out ten times over without blinking an eye.

I tend to get nervous around dignitaries so I completely sympathize, yet I have to laugh cause his gaffes are funny.


Jana, somewhere on my site is a picture of the Queen smiling at one of her grandsons as she inspects his troop. It is priceless. As I recall, he is grinning, too.


Jana, I have hooted and “hollared” and snagged people around me and made them listen. I love President Bush, get aggravated at some of the things he does (especially concerning immigration) but his sincerity and “down-home” attitude appeals to me. I pray for him from time to time.

Thanks for reading and laughing.

PS I think Queen Elizabeth could have smiled just a tiny bit. Wouldn’t hurt her!

See you next week.


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