Washington: US President George W. Bush will welcome Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and her husband to the White House on 7 May in what will become the first formal British royal visit with a US leader in 16 years.
The monarch and Prince Philip are to be greeted on the south lawn of the White House with a 21-gun salute and the national anthems of the two countries.
As the White House polished its best china and crystal tableware, 7,000 guests including diplomats, members of the US Congress and cabinet and other officials chose their grandest outfits in which to attend the ceremony.
Only the most formal dress code of white-tie and tails would do for the five-course state dinner in the queen’s honor that will be hosted Monday evening by the president and First Lady Laura Bush.
“It will be closely watched by the social elite for its collision of cultures, Texas swagger meets British prim,” the New York Times predicted.
Bush has hosted eight official visits during his six years as president, including by leaders from Poland, Kenya, Japan and China, but it is the first time he has applied the white-tie treatment.
“The United States has no closer ally and friend than Great Britain,” the White House said in a statement detailing the tightly-coordinated protocol for the royal visit.
Arrangements for the dinner were being handled by the office of Laura Bush, who was said to be behind the idea to decree such formal attire, US media reported.
The White House said the tables for the dinner would be adorned with “historically significant pieces” from its collection, including gold-rimmed china, the president’s “house crystal” and English vermeil gilded silver.
Among the 134 guests will be Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and General Peter Pace, chairman of the US military joint chiefs of staff, the White House said.
Lamp posts near the White House were festooned with Union Jacks and US flags ahead of the queen’s arrival.
The White House also said it had coordinated closely with the State Department’s Office of Protocol, which gives advice for state visits including “the proper way to address foreign dignitaries and visitors” and the dietary preferences of visitors.
The queen “doesn’t like spicy food,” newspapers quoted Anita McBride, Laura Bush’s chief of staff, as saying.
After seeing a historic English settlement in Virginia and a classic horse race in Kentucky, the royal couple touched down at Andrews Air Force Base near the capital on 6 May, according to a schedule from the Royal Family.
The queen last came to the United States in 1991 when Bush’s father was president. Her first visit had been as a 31-year-old monarch in 1957, when she met then president Dwight Eisenhower.
She kept a low profile on Sunday in Kentucky, where she was the guest of William Farish, a horse breeder and former US ambassador to London.
Earlier this week, Elizabeth and Philip also toured Jamestown, Virginia, celebrating its 400th anniversary as the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.
They will host the Bushes for a reciprocal dinner at the British embassy on 8 May.
In the meantime they will tour the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and a children’s medical center in Washington DC, lay a wreath at the World War II National Memorial and meet war veterans before heading back to London.