Some of the best illustrations of the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain have come from photos of the Royal Family and the First Family over the years. A personal favorite moment of mine comes from a trip that Queen Elizabeth made to the United States when George W. Bush was president in 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settling of Jamestown in Virginia.
During his speech, Bush mistakenly indicated that the Queen had been present to celebrate a political anniversary in 1776 – he meant the bicentennial in 1976. He then gave the Queen a large wink, captured below:
But it perhaps went better than a visit the Queen made in 1991 when Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush, was president. During it, the Queen made a speech at a podium too tall for her, leaving the impression for many watching that she was only a floating hat. The incident was nicknamed “podiumgate” by the press.
Friendly relations extended to the most recent American administration, that of Barack Obama. While the Queen visited the US once, in 2010, President Obama and the First Lady came to the UK four times, two of those times to London.
Both of the Obama’s visits to London also included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and do a nice job of illustrating the evolution of that marriage and Kate as a member of the Royal Family. The first occurred in late May 2011, about a month after the Royal Wedding and shortly after William and Kate had returned from their honeymoon. Kate was tan, glowing, and really living her best life. She was also still sporting her “bride body,” to the extent that her bandage dress was legitimately baggy on her. And let’s be honest, five years and two kids later, that dress is probably still baggy on her.
At this point, Kate was still a novelty item. Certainly there were many that were familiar with her as “Kate Middleton, Prince William’s girlfriend” since her University days, but there were also plenty of people that had only become acquainted with her as of the announcement of her engagement only six months before. It was still new to see her as a participant in official royal events and this, a visit from the President and First Lady of the United States, was one of the first truly high-profile meetings that Kate took on as Duchess of Cambridge.
Part of what I remember from these photos was thinking that Michelle Obama was the perfect person for Kate to be meeting at the time – a woman that, whatever your politics are, carved out an effective role for herself in an undefined arena, under a great deal of pressure. The photos actually remind me of the time that Princess Diana met Monaco’s Princess Grace during her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981. According to some reports, Diana confessed at a party that she was afraid what the reactions to her dress would be since it was too small for her. Grace responded by patting her on the shoulder and saying, “Don’t worry, it’ll only get worse.” I suspect that Michelle and Kate were able to similarly commiserate.
Fast forward five years to April 2016 and the end of President Obama’s second term was drawing near; William and Kate had under their belt two kids, two homes and four overseas tours. By that time, Kate had been through her own “scandals” and gaffes; she had been criticized; she had grown more confident in her position; she had, alongside William and Harry, outlined her own charitable ambitions for the near future.
During their 2016 visit, the Obamas visited William, Kate and Harry at Apartment 1A in Kensington Palace where they famously made the acquaintance of Prince George. While their conversation wasn’t reported, it was the first time images from within the couple’s London residence were released and it allowed a glimpse into the life and home Kate has created as a duchess.
The meeting also allowed one of the most hilarious photos of 2016 to be captured:
A moment that Obama would reference a few days later during his last White House Correspondents’ Dinner with:
But it’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, they’ve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. (Laughter and applause.) That was a slap in the face. (Laughter.) A clear breach in protocol. (Laughter.)
And once again the friendly rapport between Michelle and Kate was on display:
The two women had actually met a third time in 2012 during the Olympic Opening Ceremony in London, which the First Lady attended without her husband:
With the conclusion of the Obama presidency last weekend, the relationship is worth looking back on – it is, after all, the first presidency with which William and Kate have engaged as a married couple. And if there’s ever a visit between the Cambridges and the Trumps, I sincerely hope that George faces off with Donald in his bathrobe.