The Queen's Visit to the U.S.

John Geiger
Royal Watcher and Editorial Board Member, Toronto Globe and Mail
Friday, May 4, 2007; 3:00 PM

Queen Elizabeth II visited Jamestown today for the second time in her 55 years on the British throne, attending ceremonies marking the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

The queen, who arrived in Virginia yesterday for a six-day tour accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and a royal entourage, was formally welcomed to the settlement by Vice President Cheney and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

John Geiger, a royal family watcher and editorial board editor for Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper, will be online Friday, May 4, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss the visit of the queen, its significance and the today's view of the monarchy. As a journalist, he has covered the Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as well as the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. He received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.

A transcript follows.


John Geiger: Hi, I'm John Geiger, here to answer any questions you might have about the Queen's visit to the United States, or general questions about the royal family.


Olney, Md.: Have Prince William or Harry ever done a formal tour of the U.S.?

John Geiger: No they have not. They have never undertaken an official visit to the U.S. Obviously their parents have. Prince William did undertake official engagements in New Zealand, if that counts for anything. They have also undertaken two Canadian trips.


Washington, D.C.: How is Canada viewing the visit?

John Geiger: It's viewed very differently here. We have the Queen here quite frequently. When she's in Canada she is here as Canada's Head of State, she plays a role in the nation's life and governance. This is a different kind of visit, she is a foreign head of state visiting the U.S., although there are obviously rich historical ties between the two countries


Fairfax, Va.: What else will Queen Elizabeth do while she's here in the U.S. for six days?

John Geiger: The highlight is the visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to the White House where President Bush will officially welcome them with a military ceremony on the South Lawn, followed by a private lunch, and a State Dinner that evening, doubtless one of the hottest tickets of the year in D.C.


Centreville, Va.: Has the Queen seen the movie "The Queen?" Has she commented on it? It was said that Helen Mirren might be invited to Buckingham Palace.

John Geiger: The Palace has maintained a dignified silence on the subject of the Queen's viewing of the film. While it has been discussed that Dame Helen would be invited to the Palace, this has not yet happened to my knowledge. She can't be bemused by the depiction of the late Queen Mother, or the Duke for that matter.


Washington, D.C.: Will the queen discuss "more weighty" issues, like the war in Iraq and Tony Blair's now tenuous position there in Britain?

John Geiger: No doubt the Queen will have a full and frank discussion with the President during their private lunch on Monday, and she has also very likely had discussions with Mr. Blair prior to undertaking this visit, and with the change of leadership imminent in the U.K., her visit emphasizes her continuity and that of the ties between the two countries. It's incredible to think, but President Truman was in office when she succeeded to the throne. The first President she met as Queen was President Eisenhower.


Annandale, Va.: The popularity of the movie The Queen is unbelievable. I think more people think Helen Mirren is the queen than the truth. What do the insiders at Buckingham Palace think about how much interest and curiosity the movie has caused?

John Geiger: It is no doubt that The Queen recognizes that this period was and remains of great public interest, but we likely won't know until her diaries are made public many years after her death. Palace insiders no doubt are gratified that Dame Helen has proved to be sympathetic to the Crown, and her portrayal of Her Majesty humanized the Queen in a way not seen before.


Manassas, Va.: Do we know how she feels about grandson Prince Harry wanting to go to Iraq?

John Geiger: Members of the Royal Family have served in the armed forces in time of war and peace alike, and the Queen and Duke would expect their family to shoulder their responsibilities. There is a great historical tradition of such service, including the Duke of York who served during the Falklands War. The Duke of Edinburgh has had a life of military service, so has the Duke of Kent. Prince Harry of Wales would not be going to Iraq absent the Queen's support.


Washington, D.C.: Have you met members of the royal family and if so, whom? What are they like? Did you have a chance to talk much with them? What do they seem like in person?

John Geiger: I met the late Queen Mother, who was lovely and very personable. She was witty, clearly fun-loving. A charming woman. I've met two of the Queen's children, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex, both of whom struck me as interested and hardworking representatives of the Firm. I've seen others close up but not had a chance to talk with them. I've been impressed by how seriously they take their responsibilities, and how very grounded they are. They are not people who feel they have anything to prove, so there are few pretensions.

_______________________ Photo Gallery: Queen Elizabeth II Arrives in Virginia


San Diego: Some experts stated yesterday that the Queen's visit to the United States will be her last. Why are they saying this?. The Queen has Queen Mum's genes.

John Geiger: This visit has clearly been staged on the 50th anniversary of her first visit to the U.S. as Queen, to some of the same venues. So it is a nice bookend. The Queen certainly does seem to be in fine form, and continuing a remarkable pace. But it has been announced that the Prince of Wales will increasingly shoulder some of the burden of international travel. She may yet return to the U.S., but not until invited by a new President after a U.S. State Visit to the U.K., so it is some years off and she is approaching her 10th decade...


Washington, D.C.: I have often wondered if the royal family are aware of how loved and respected they are by the citizens of the United States.

Especially The Queen herself?

John Geiger: You have made a very good point. I think that's true. I would guess the Queen is very conscious of it. There is a close history and shared language. Americans are always very well represented at royal occasions in the UK, which is unusual for a non-Commonwealth country. I would imagine the Palace is very aware of U.S. opinion and public interest.


Waldorf, Md.: The press -- American and British -- seems to make fun of the royal family and loves to accent their foibles, etc. How much does Buckingham Palace pay attention to what's in the tabloids?

John Geiger: That's a very good question. Of course they would have to pay attention, and I think a lot of these hacks are anti-monarchist. In the past the Palace maintained a pose of studied indifference, but in recent years they have become much more proactive, both in correcting the myriad errors published, and also in providing photo opportunities to satisfy the demands of these publications. They are scurrilous and frankly insulting to the intelligence, so it must pain them to do so, however.


Washington, D.C.: Should an American address someone as "Your Majesty"?

John Geiger: Yes. That is the proper style. It is no different than saying Mr. President, or Your Honor for mayors. Several states still use Your Excellency for governors.


Anonymous: This isn't really about the Queen's visit, but I'm curious if you can tell us what Prince Charles will be called when he becomes King? Will he be King Charles or take another name?

John Geiger: That will be up to him. It's not something anyone will have discussed in public because it involves the demise of his mother, but there is obviously speculation that he would be King Charles III.


Washington, D.C.: How much security does she have around her? Is it her own or is it the U.S.'s?

John Geiger: In the U.S., her security is the responsibility of the U.S. Secret Service. She always travels with a small group of officers from Scotland Yard.


Rosslyn, Va.: I've heard that Prince Charles will not attend the anniversary concert for Princess Diana this summer that the sons have planned. Why?

John Geiger: Hmm. I don't know what the answer to that is. He probably thinks that this is a chance for his sons to pay tribute to their mother, and to take center stage. He may think that he would be a divisive presence there. The Prince of Wales will attend the memorial service on the anniversary of Diana's death along with other members of the Royal Family, so it's not as if he is ignoring this anniversary.


Alexandria, Va: I would 'love' to see Queen Elizabeth live as long as her mother did. With this in mind, is the Queen in good health??

John Geiger: She certainly appears to be in robust health, and she does have her mother's amazing genes. On the other hand, she has had a great burden all these many years. I think that most people would agree with you, though, and hope she does live as long as her mother did...


Washington, D.C.: Is it possible to see the Queen during her visit to Washington, D.C.? Will she be doing any public events?

John Geiger: Most of the schedule is invite only, but obviously she is visiting around D.C. and there will be plenty of opportunities to see her in person. The biggest chance might be at the World War Two memorial on Tuesday afternoon, where she will lay a wreath.


Washington, D.C.: I know it was just a movie, but in The Queen it seemed like it was a big deal when Her Majesty got out and actually spoke to the people gathered outside the gates of the Palace. I know the Low Countries have their "bicycle monarchies" with the royals mingling with the public, but is it not the norm for the Queen to interact with her subjects?

John Geiger: A good question. This present Queen started the notion of the royal walkabout, inspired by her mother's example. She is very accessible to people, and has met tens of thousands of people individually over her reign. That occasion was unusual, though, as she stopped on the way into the Palace and got out, and then essentially conducted a royal walkabout. It was obviously a highly unusual set of circumstances.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi John. I have a couple of questions. You wrote earlier that the Queen visits Canada frequently. We don't seem to hear that in the U.S. media. Any thoughts on why being our neighbor that the media seems to ignore this?

Second question -- The Queen always maintains her reserve. Do you ever recall her being more relaxed and outgoing during public events? I don't honestly recall ever seeing or reading such in the media even when I've been in the U.K. Thanks!

John Geiger: Beyond visits like this one, the U.S. media's interest in the royal family is often confined to royal scandals, unfortunately. Visits to Canada do go largely unmentioned in the U.S., as do many of her visits go unmentioned in the UK. The media everywhere has its own narrow interests.


Washington, D.C.: From my observance, the first woman to meet the queen when she stepped off the airplane yesterday curtsied in front of her. We all here in the states have heard, in reports before her arrival, that this was no longer necessary. Was this woman wrong and how do you think Queen Elizabeth felt about this first American encounter? Or am I making a bigger deal out of it than it actually is?

John Geiger: For those who are subjects of the Queen, it is an appropriate mark of respect for the Queen and her family. Even for those who have their own head of state, normal courtesy applies, but a curtsey is not necessary.


John Geiger: Thanks for all your questions, sorry I could not get to more of them. Enjoy the Royal Visit!


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