“Her curious and smiling eyes,” is how one journalist recently described the lasting impression made by Queen Elizabeth II during a personal encounter some years ago. After spending a day with her, I couldn’t have put it better. That, together with her quick smile, light laughter, lilting voice, and a singular ability to put others at ease in her presence.
Yes, there was pomp and circumstance, too…plenty of it.
Following a USA recce by the British Embassy and President Ford’s chief of protocol, I was invited to witness Trooping the Colour in London to be briefed first-hand on protocol. Back in Boston, my job in the Office of the Mayor involved briefing dignitaries and their wives on everything from hats and gloves to curtsies, just one section of the minute-by-minute preparations for July 11, 1976 that produced a three-inch thick manual many months in the planning.
The occasion was the American Bicentennial, which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh observed with a state visit to Washington, D.C. plus visits to New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston as well as Monticello and Newport, Rhode Island.
Before departing to open the Montreal Olympics, the queen thanked our team at a reception onboard The Royal Yacht Britannia. Docked in Boston Harbor against a backdrop of fireboat salutes in a traditional Beating Retreat and Farewell Ceremony, the evening was complete with trumpet fanfare, flirtatious quips from the Duke of Edinburgh, and generous gin and tonics (no ice) served from a gleaming silver platter. It was an unforgettable ending to a particularly hot summer day, filled with Murphy’s Law moments when things went unexpectedly off script…as they are bound to do. Naturally, Queen Elizabeth II gracefully took it all in stride.