Lunching With Queen Elizabeth On Her 90th Birthday: Obama’s Last Official Visit To London

Obama Flies From Saudi Arabia To London For Lunch and Talks

Wrapping up a one-day summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Obama flew thousands of miles to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday over lunch at Windsor Castle on Friday. Prince Philip and Michelle Obama, who flew in from Washington, joined the two sitting heads of government.

Later, a dinner with Princes William and Harry, and William’s wife, Kate Middleton, was planned at their Kensington Palace home in London. The Obamas and the younger royals have had a close relationship during Obama’s presidency, with both Princes having stayed at the White House during visits to the United States.

First Visit In 2009

The Obamas first visited the Queen in 2009, where a bit of an international kerfuffle was raised when, instead of bowing to the Queen, as is protocol, Michelle Obama hugged her. Criticism of Mrs. Obama quickly subsided, however, when at the end of the visit, in posing for official photos, the Queen wrapped her arm around the First Lady, also much against protocol.

At the time, Obama described the Queen as “delightful” and said she reminded him of his grandmother.

Subsequent Visits

Since that time, the Obamas, either singly or together, have traveled to London or hosted members of the royal family in the U.S. on a number of occasions.

  • In May, 2011, the Queen hosted a state visit of the Obamas, and they slept at the castle.
  • In 2014, Obama and the Queen had a short private meeting during the 70th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landing in Normandy.
  • Prince Charles, along with his wife Camilla, have also visited Obama in the White House, and the two Princes have been frequent visitors during their many trips to the U.S.
  • The First Lady and two daughters Malia and Sasha also stopped by Kensington Palace to have tea with Prince Harry last year.

This latest visit is likely Obama’s last official one, although it is speculated that the close relationship between the two families will probably continue. When asked about the many visits, White House spokesman Josh Earnest had this to say,

“Each time, the President has come away with an even deeper personal affection for her. She is an important symbol of a country with whom the United States has a special relationship. But she also is a human being whose charisma and a sense of nobility and honor is something that I think people around the world are attracted to.”

Shared Interest In Veterans’ Welfare

A part of that close connection between the two families is the mutual concern that Michelle Obama and Prince Harry have for the welfare of military veterans. Harry, an Afghanistan War veteran, and the First Lady have held joint events to highlight the needs of veterans, in 2013 and again in 2015, when they met at a U.S. military base to shine a spotlight on the plight of many veterans, especially those who are wounded.

The First Lady and daughters Malia and Sasha also sipped tea with Harry at Kensington Palace when they stopped in London last year.

Talks With David Cameron

Following the celebratory festivities, there is a planned visit with Prime Minister David Cameron, who faces some political woes of his own. While discussions are likely to center on the mutual campaign against ISIS, other counter-terrorism plans, and global economic issues, the overriding concern for both men is the potential that Britain may pull out of the European Union.

Both Cameron and Obama have strongly opposed the “Brexit,” as it has come to be known, but there is also strong political opinion in favor of it.

In an opinion piece published by the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Obama urged British citizens to support continued membership and was quoted as saying the following.

“The U.S. and the world need your outsized influence to continue – including within Europe.”

The final decision rests with the British people, who will have their say with a referendum vote in June.

A Happy Ending

Despite all of the global issues that face both Britain and the U.S., the relationship between the Obamas and the royal family, especially with the oldest and longest-serving monarch in British history, are strong and lasting — one of Obama’s good memories from his time in office.

[Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images]

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