Hype and Hoopla
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The big buzz this month is the Queen’s six-day visit to the United States May 3-9.

Upon Her Majesty’s arrival in Virginia, she offered condolences on behalf of the United Kingdom to Virginia Tech students in the wake of a massacre at the school where 32 students were killed. The Queen had a good time at the Kentucky Derby, an event to which she’s never been. She didn’t bother anybody and nobody bothered her.

At a white-tie State Dinner at the White House hosted by President and Mrs. Bush, the Queen wore a white gown with a beaded bodice and chiffon skirt, the Queen Mary tiara, a three-strand diamond necklace, a diamond bracelet, a pearl watch, three brooches on a formal blue sash, diamond drop earrings and a silver purse. Mrs. Bush wore an embroidered turquoise silk faille gown with a matching embroidered bolero jacket created for her by Oscar de la Renta.

The five-course dinner consisted of spring pea soup and caviar, Dover sole, saddle of spring lamb, arugula salad, petit fours and a meringue and spun sugar creation called “Rose Blossoms.”

After dinner, 76 of the 134 guests were invited to the East Room for after-dinner entertainment. (What did they do, I wonder, with the other 58 guests? Tell them to go home?) The whole shebang was over by 11:00 p.m., only one hour past the President's usual bedtime.

Before leaving for London, the Queen met with astronauts aboard the space station via video link, which she called “amazing” and “quite an achievement.”

Those of you who regularly read "Royally Speaking" know that I usually poke fun at the Royal Family and that the columns are usually very light-hearted and done in fun. In preparing this month’s column, I was perplexed at some of the sentiment regarding the Queen’s visit from foreign press, U.S. media and the general public. I found that reaction to the Queen’s visit brought up issues of clear divisions—royalty vs. aristocracy, rich vs. poor, and whether there is in fact any truth to the constitutional proclamation, “All men are created equal.”

Etiquette was a point of great contention. Eben Harrell of The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, said in his April 30, 2007 article that Americans were struggling over how much deference to pay the Queen, noting that government officials in Virginia were concerned enough about etiquette upon Americans meeting the monarch that an entire web page on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s website was dedicated to the subject.

Now, I can’t speak for all Americans, but I’m pretty sure no one was up all night worried about royal etiquette. Anyone with proper manners should have no trouble meeting the Queen. I am sure the Queen was well aware that she was on American turf, not British, and had no expectations of anyone bowing to her.

Harrell also added that while “[a]ides to the Queen insist that the monarch understands that human interactions have changed with the times,” he also states that “committing a social faux pas in her presence can have far reaching consequences.” Come on, now. The Queen isn’t going to lock anybody in the Tower of London for breach of etiquette. The worst that will happen is you make a fool of yourself, and you won’t get invited to tea at Buckingham Palace.

The British newspaper, The Guardian, implied that President Bush would have to restrain himself from serving Tex Mex to the Queen for dinner, hold himself back from swigging water from a plastic bottle, or wolfing down his food. What does the rest of the world think we are, a pack of wild animals?

The same newspaper also stated, “Americans may not be taking the monarch to their hearts the way they did Diana, but they are warm and above all respectful.” Warm and respectful? What, like this is a surprise?

One of the most outspoken journalists was Marc Fisher of The Washington Post. In his May 6, 2007 article “Shameful Bowing Before the Crown,” Fisher had a fit because Morgan Griffith, majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, paused to bow his head to the Queen before escorting her into the House chamber. Fisher wrote, “The hype and hoopla over the royal visit has driven too many of us to forget who we are….We are no one’s subjects. We do not bow to kings and queens. When we forget this, we sully ourselves….[I]t is sad to see Americans bowing and curtsying to a monarch, a descendant of the very king against whom we fought a revolution.”

I would bet, Mr. Fisher, that Mr. Griffith’s bow to the Queen was a gesture of respect, not one of subservience. I don’t think Mr. Griffith’s bow will turn the clock back 400-plus years. There are no British redcoats running around Jamestown as a result of it, trying to take the country back.

The war against Britain for America’s freedom is over, Mr. Fisher, and the Americans won. The Queen knows this. I for one think it was very nice of the Queen to come to the United States to see how we’re doing. The woman was nothing less than gracious. At the White House dinner the Queen said, “Divided or alone we can be vulnerable, but if the Atlantic unites not divides us, ours is a partnership always to be reckoned with in the defense of freedom and the spread of prosperity. That is a lesson of my lifetime. Administrations in your country and governments in mine may come and go, but talk we will, listen we have to, disagree from time to time we may, but united we must always remain.”

Rest assured, Mr. Fisher, we Americans will never forget who we are, how we got here, and the hard-won freedom we will never give up.

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