It’s good of Prince Charles to represent the British royal family at the funeral of President George H.W. Bush in Washington, D.C. today. No doubt, however, Queen Elizabeth II will wish she could be there. The Queen doesn’t do many foreign trips these days — she’s 92 — and Charles is acting as ‘shadow king’. But she and Bush 41 were close. Their friendship evokes memories of a time when the relationship between Britain and America was truly special — not just a lot of hot air about wars.
As the Queen’s latest biographer Robert Hardman notes, Elizabeth II and Bush 41 relished each other’s company. They seem to have bonded over the infamous ‘royal talking hat’ moment outside the White House in May, 1991. President Bush had spoken first, and as he left the podium he was meant to press a button to raise the dais for Her (considerably shorter) Majesty. But he forgot, meaning that throughout her speech the Queen could hardly be seen. The funny photos spread around the world. When the Queen next came to Washington, she began her address to Congress by saying, ‘I hope you can see me now.’
After the first Iraq War, Hardman reveals, the Queen asked her piper to compose a new march called Desert Storm. But the Queen is no hawk; she’s a Christian. In that speech to Congress, she said: ‘Some people believe that power grows from the barrel of a gun. So it can, but history shows that it never grows well nor for very long. Force, in the end, is sterile. We have gone a better way: our societies rest on mutual agreement, on contract and on consensus.’ The story of Iraq under Bush 43’s presidency made that point all too well.
But the Bushes and the Windsors have remained allies. It’s often said that the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, particularly enjoyed the company of Barbara Bush.
Prince Charles, for his part, will meet President Donald Trump, perhaps a chance for him to make amends for his reported ‘snub’ when Trump met the Queen in Britain in July. Charles is often getting himself in diplomatic trouble — for instance, he once expressed a wish that America would tackle the influence of the ‘Jewish lobby’. But this is not the time for such talk.