When we last caught up with the royals, they were in the U.S. on a state visit. They’re still there, taking in the action at the Kentucky Derby for the weekend before heading to Washington, D.C. for the first white tie banquet of George Bush II’s presidency (don’t forget, this was filmed back in 2007).
The White House is getting all dressed up—new coat of paint and all. One of the painters explains that the color used on the White House is Whisper, not China White or Antique White. Good to know. The White House horticulturalist is overseeing the planting of flowers, so everything looks pretty. Everyone admits that there’s a lot to do, but they’re not stressed or worried about it at all. The First Lady’s staff seems to be largely in charge of what’s happening, and we get to see a fascinating meeting where they discuss the possibility of pictures in the State Dining room.
For some reason, we flash back to Buckingham Palace, where we’re told that the Queen reigns, but the Prime Minister governs, and he swings by every week to tell her how things are going. We back up a bit to her last meeting with Blair before leaving for her trip to America. They chat about the trip a little, seeming somewhat uncomfortable with the cameras there. It must have been kind of annoying having to chatter like that until they could kick the cameramen out and actually get down to business. Blair later interviews that people around the world look up to the monarchy.
Back in D.C., Blair House is being prepped for the Queen’s arrival while across the street, at the White House, the First Lady’s picking out china for the welcome luncheon. There’s some discussion of seating arrangements, and it’s really quite dull. President Bush interviews that he remembers meeting Queen Elizabeth when she was there for a state dinner during his father’s presidency. He likes her, having found her kind and compassionate.
And now, for some reason, we get an overlong interlude with the Bushes’ dog, Barney, a feisty Scottish terrier. The man in charge of walking the president’s dogs (I kid you not—that’s apparently a full-time job) plays with him in the garden and says he’s got quite a little personality. Translation: He’s kind of a pain in the ass. The dog plays with a ball and chases the other Scottie around the garden. Dog man talks about all the presidential dogs he’s walked over the years. Bush interviews that Laura’s worried about Barney misbehaving around the Queen, and that he hopes Her Majesty will ask to meet the dog. And then Laura interviews about the dogs. Geez, were they this hard up for content? Talk about filler.
Next, Laura shows us the state bedrooms and talks about the people who have stayed there. She talks about turning the White House into a family home, starting with creating rooms for her daughters. Isn’t this supposed to be a documentary about the Queen? Why am I spending so much time learning about the White House?
Now we get to see the Oval Office. The Chief of Staff, who surely must have something better to do, talks about how every president gets to choose his own carpet for the office. I repeat, people, documentary about the Queen of England. Who cares about who picks out the carpet in the Oval Office?
And now we’re back at BP, before the Queen’s departure, as she prepares to host a dinner for prominent American residents living in Britain. Didn’t we already see this? Maybe that was just the reception? Palace stewards go around measuring chairs and making sure everything’s absolutely perfect.
Guests arrive and are escorted upstairs for pre-dinner drinks and then head into the banquet room, as servants scurry behind the scenes, getting food together. After dinner, the Queen leads a tour through the royal collection, so everyone can admire the paintings. The man in charge tells everyone that most of the paintings were amassed by Charles I, then distributed during the Cromwell period, and then some of them were stolen back after the Restoration. Everyone laughs, because theft is funny.
In D.C., the British Embassy prepares to host a garden party for 700 guests to thank the Americans for the banquet. Recruited staff is given instructions and put through their paces. An embassy staffer makes the groundbreaking observation that Britain and America are two different countries with very different cultures. Wow, really? I never would have guessed!
The BP Deputy Master of the Household arrives at the White House to see how things are coming along. The White House’s Chief Usher shows him around, DMoH seems pleased. While all this is going on, the Queen’s in Kentucky for the Derby, which she’s never seen before. This is ostensibly a day off for her, but she’s still surrounded by media and has to go through the motions of making small talk while being shown the trophy. Americans in various stages of drunkenness talk about how cool it is to have the Queen there.
It’s the day of the Queen’s arrival in D.C., and everyone’s ready to go, including some 700 members of the press. Someone checks the audio up at the lectern while someone else vacuums the red carpet. Inside, a man in uniform gives Bush and Laura a rundown of the day’s events.
Bush and Laura step outside as Hail to the Chief plays. Right on cue, a limo pulls up and the Queen steps out. Speeches start, and Bush famously flubs, accidentally claiming the Queen’s over 200 years old, which earned him a glare from her that pretty much said: “Wow, you really are an idiot, aren’t you?” Bush then interviews that, while she’s regal, he just viewed her as a mom. Wow. Really?
Speeches are over, so the Queen and Prince Philip go inside to sign the visitors’ book and have their lunch. You think she signs “Elizabeth” or “The Queen”? For some reason, I’m curious to know. Outside, photographers talk about the day’s highlights. Inside, Laura starts spouting off bits of historical trivia regarding White House décor. Is she a tour guide too? The Queen nods politely, like she cares that the White House has candelabra that Jackie Kennedy tracked down that date all the way back to 1789 or whatever. One of her castles is more than a thousand years old, folks.
In the kitchens, the staff’s getting ready for the diner. Fish is filleted, sugar flowers are prepared. Over at the Embassy, the woman in charge fields questions about royal etiquette and deals with morons who have lost their invitations. Come on, seriously? If I got an invitation to a garden party with the Queen, I’d make sure to put that somewhere safe. Woman in Charge (I think her name’s Amanda) goes around making final preparations, looking like she’s the only person who works at the whole embassy. Tea pastries are set out, the flags are flying, and it’s a lovely day.
Post-lunch, the Queen, Philip, Bush, and Laura take a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, as tourists and photographers struggle to get close. One woman enthuses about seeing the Queen of the British Monarch. Sigh.
Laura talks about how big Buckingham Palace seemed when she visited it a few years previously. That’s pretty much all there is to that, as we watch tables get set for the dinner in the White House. Laura welcomes members of the press for their preview, while Bush interviews that he hates wearing white tie, but he did it because Laura said so.
At the embassy, Amanda’s getting ready, putting on a HUGE hat. The Queen arrives, having changed into a very pink outfit. She sits for a formal portrait with the most important guests, then joins the party out in the garden. Amanda introduces the Queen to some special guests, including Mickey Rooney, who kisses her hand charmingly. It all goes rather well and seems quite lovely.
At the White House, the photographers hilariously surge toward their positions en masse, while the William Tell Overture plays. Heh. Marines take their position as the President and First Lady emerge to greet the Queen and Prince Philip. The Queen’s all decked out in tiara and gown. Laura’s wearing a really pretty pale blue gown and bolero. Well done, folks. Hands are shaken, photos are posed for. Everyone goes inside and the party begins. Hey, look, there’s Condi Rice! Bush gives a speech welcoming everyone and doesn’t seem to mess this one up. Wine and champagne are poured and served, meat is sliced and arranged artfully on platters. Nancy Regan interviews that the Queen’s been through a lot of change, but she’s done a great job through it all. A military choir sings the Battle Hymn of the Republic. And thus endeth the banquet.
The next day, the Queen heads out for other engagements while the Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, goes for official meetings with members of the U.S. government. Apparently, a senior government official always travels with the Queen on state visits. Good to know.
The Queen visits the Goddard Space Flight Center, where she greets the crowd and does a walkabout, highly visible in a lemon yellow jacket and hat. Beckett, meanwhile, meets with Condi Rice, who seems to know her rather well. They discuss the view from Rice’s office, then they go shake hands for the cameras before retiring to a private lunch.
The Queen makes small talk with some senators and NASA bigwigs, while back at the Embassy, Amanda puts the finishing touches on that evening’s formal dinner. In a drawing room, there’s a rehearsal for one of the day’s events: an investiture honoring those who have made contributions to British-American relations. The Queen arrives and the honors are given out. Afterwards, one of the women interviews that one of the most confusing things was whether or not to wear a hat, and that she didn’t want the Queen to feel uncomfortable, being the only one in a hat, so she helped her out by wearing one herself. Wow, how generous of you.
Later, the Queen goes to pay her respects at the national World War II memorial, accompanied by Philip and George H.W. and Barbara Bush. Coincidentally, it’s VE day. There’s a crowd of, mostly, people who were around during World War II.
That evening, the Queen greets the Bushes (all four of them) at the Embassy and leads them upstairs for the dinner. In her speech, she humorously references Bush’s earlier date flub, and everyone laughs, Bush included. Afterward, everyone gets back in their cars and off they go.
Immediately after the banquet, the Queen goes right to the airport to board her flight home. She and Philip pause at the top of the stairs to wave one last time, and then that’s it for the state visit.
God, what a boring and pointless episode. It was about an hour of filler: people saying over and over and over how cool the Queen is, punctuated by pointless tours of the White House. Wrong documentary for that, folks. I feel like we’ve learned more about that than we did about Buckingham Palace, which is just wrong. And once again, many of the Americans came across as clueless bumpkins at best, completely and utterly brainless at worst. Sigh. Hopefully the next one will be better.