Queen Elizabeth II arrives today for a state visit, and all of official Washington is twitterpated about making everything just so.
Jacqueline Bowens knows how to decipher the intricacies of life or death trauma, but the directives from Buckingham Palace have her flummoxed.
” ‘Day Dress’ for the women,” frets the Children’s National Medical Center vice president. “We’re thinking that’s Business Attire.”
“Or are we supposed to wear dresses?” worries Terry Orzechowski, the Washington hospital’s director of volunteer services. ” Can women wear pants to meet the queen?”
We may have won the Revolutionary War, unpowdered our wigs and freed ourselves from monarchical conventions. But that has not kept Bowens, at Children’s — where every first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy has visited and foreign dignitaries regularly stop by — from enduring two months of meetings and walk-throughs. She has created for hospital staff a six- to eight-page “protocol paper” on “the dos and the don’ts and the activities” of a royal visit set to last 40 minutes, max. For those more actively involved in the visit, there is “a full notebook.”
So will Children’s serve the queen tea — or a juice box? (Probably tea, Bowens says: “Lipton works for us,” but they expect to offer British and green teas, too.) Is it proper to Purell royalty before she meets kids on the cardiac unit? (No need, Bowens says. The playroom she’s visiting is not susceptible to infection.)
Similar vapors are evident in Richmond, where Virginia first lady Anne Holton will host the queen, and 30,000 people are expected to jam into a square that holds 13,000.
“Hats are a big topic — lots of questions about hats,” says Amy Bridge, director of the Governor’s Mansion. “The first lady did a lot of thinking and lot of consultation about that.”
I’m wondering if the president has come up with some nicknames for the royal couple: “Yo, Queenie!” Her Majesty would not be amused. And what if Prince Philip is wearing a sword as a part of his formal uniform? “Hey, Phil, how’s it hangin’? Is that a sabre you’re wearing or are you just glad to see me?” Maybe they’ll be glad they lost the Revolutionary War after all.
And then there’s this:
A daily nugget for royal watchers:
Phil Dampier, a veteran reporter on the royals beat, says Queen Elizabeth II uses her purse “as a type of semaphore” in public, issuing signals to her handlers. “If she moves the bag to this position or that position, it means she wants to be moved from this boring person in five minutes, or she wants to leave, or what have you,” says Dampier, author of the forthcoming book “What’s in the Queen’s Handbag?” He says she carries an S-shaped hook, which she hangs from tables to hold her purse.
When I was in grad school at Minnesota, I had a professor, the late Robert Moulton, who taught dance and choreography. He was interviewed by a reporter on his career and was asked, “Is it true that you once danced for the Queen?” Without missing a beat, Bob replied, “Yes, and he hated every minute of it.”