If there's one thing British royalty is good at, it's the stiff upper lip in times of blood, sweat and tears. So war or no war, those who profess to know such things say although it's politically contentious, there's nothing about the situation in the Persian Gulf that should keep Queen Elizabeth II from coming to Washington even if fighting continues into mid-May.

A full-blown state visit to a Very Important Ally, the queen's trip also serves as a symbolic reminder that presidents and prime ministers may come and go but nobody's yet seen the last of Britain's royal Elizabeth.

Though her schedule is still in flux, there is good reason to speculate that it will include a visit to Texas, not just because it is George Bush country but because it is William Stamps Farish III country. By coincidence, the quiet, unassuming multimillionaire sportsman Farish is a favorite of the queen as well as of Bush, for whom Farish oversees his blind trust, his quail hunts and his springer spaniel population. (He gave the Bushes Millie, then two years later found her a mate.)

Besides a sprawling Texas ranch, Farish owns a highly successful Kentucky stud farm, and the queen delights in dropping by there every other year or so to see how her brood mares and their latest foals are doing. Part of the attraction is Will and Sarah Farish's relaxed, unceremonious treatment of her as a friend and house guest rather than as the world's most famous monarch.

Her last Washington visit was during the 1976 bicentennial, when the Fords rolled out the royal carpet -- figuratively and literally -- at their White House state dinner for her. Betty Ford later said she had insisted upon a floor and carpet in a tent set up in the Rose Garden. She remembered only too vividly President Nixon's outdoor dinner for returning Vietnam POWs, at which, after three days of nonstop rain, chairs sank into the ground and mud ruined more than a few pairs of brand-new evening shoes. And sure enough, 1 1/2 hours before the Fords' dinner started, the heavens opened up.

Mrs. Ford ruffled a few feathers over that dinner when she put her foot down about State Department types who were trying to run the White House show. Finally, as she tells in her book "The Times of My Life," she telephoned Ford's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, to demand that "the hysteria" be stopped.

" 'General,' I said, 'I want this visit to be completely handled by my staff, so would you please name someone from your staff for us to have as liaison with the State Department?' " she writes.

There are indications that similar turf wars could be ahead, but Scowcroft, now Bush's national security adviser, will probably be too busy to intercede this time around. In the January issue of Washingtonian magazine, Chief of Protocol Joseph V. Reed Jr. is quoted as saying that when Queen Elizabeth comes to town he will be in charge of the menu, music and seating for the White House dinner.

You know, the way he has been taking charge all along -- even if the White House social office hasn't been aware of it.

It's not uncommon in Washington for a good story to take on a life of its own. Or if it's really good, for somebody else to take it on.

A classic example is the story Ronald Reagan often told on himself and that he retells in his autobiography, "An American Life." In it, he describes the night French President Francois Mitterrand and his wife, Danielle, were dinner guests at the White House. At the entrance to the State Dining Room, despite Reagan's whispered entreaties that they walk to their table beneath the Lincoln portrait, Madame Mitterrand stood "frozen." When she replied quietly in French, Reagan writes that he didn't know what she was saying until an interpreter hurried over to explain, "She's telling you that you're standing on {the hem of} her gown."

Now comes a revised version of the story. In this one, recounted in a recent speech by Reed, the wife of the visiting head of state is not named. No such luck for her hapless host. To the astonishment of both Reagan and Bush aides, raconteur Reed identifies him as President Bush.

History may show that for all Nancy Reagan's expensive borrowed designer gowns, one outfit stood out as priceless during her eight years in the White House: the one she wore the night of her Gridiron Club performance in 1982.

By her own description, the get-up made her look like "a bag lady on Halloween," with its layers of mismatched prints, colors, styles and fabrics that were hardly Mrs. Reagan's style. But together, they worked sheer magic in changing her public image.

Over "a really ugly sleeveless red cotton print housedress," as she later described the ensemble, "I wore a blue print skirt pinned up on the side with a sequined butterfly, a long strand of fake pearls, a mangy boa and a red straw hat with feathers and flowers."

After wearing it for her show-stopping "Second Hand Clothes" number that night, components of her outfit drifted back into the grab bags of East Wing aides who had lent them and into the recesses of Mrs. Reagan's White House closet. Imagine then her puzzlement and surprise last week in Los Angeles when, at a meeting on the Reagan Library, she opened a gift-wrapped package to find the housedress and skirt in all their ugly splendor.

It turned out to be no idle joke by her former press secretary, Elaine Crispen, who had bought the dress in California years ago (but can't imagine why), and by her daughter, Sheri Crispen, who bought the skirt (and can't imagine why either). With other missing parts (including the hat her staff gave her as a gag when she set off for the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di), Mrs. Reagan's Gridiron costume is expected to go on display next fall when the library opens.

A section of the library is devoted to her life and activities as First Lady, and Mrs. Reagan is working with the New York firm of Donovan and Green/Stuart Silver, which is designing the exhibit cases. After Feb. 1, when she leaves her post as a senior vice president of Hill and Knowlton here, Crispen will start her own consulting firm and continue the search for archival "artifacts" to tell the Ronald and Nancy Reagan story.

Last week as Crispen and others began jogging their memories by looking through old calendars, photographs and inventories of Reagan memorabilia stored in Laguna Beach and Culver City, Calif., warehouses, Nancy Reagan was at home sorting through her own souvenirs.

One of her first finds, according to Crispen: the top of her wedding cake.