22 April 2011

Legends of the Gipper: At Windsor Castle

In lieu of the forthcoming royal wedding I thought it time to share an anecdote about an incident when President Ronald Reagan paid a visit to Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II (I trust my British readers to correct me should I have botched her formal title).  Credit for this one goes to Work Hard, Study...and Stay Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons Learned from an Unexpected Public Life by James A. Baker, III.  Baker served as Mr. Reagan's Chief of Staff and later as Secretary of the Treasury, as well as Secretary of State for President George H.W. Bush.

Photo taken 8 June 1982 by Michael Evans, Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library.
The president was visiting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.  Like him, she was an avid and accomplished rider, so the staffs arranged for a horseback tour of the grounds.  After the obligatory photo-op, the monarch and the president road away, the queen in front.  A few minutes later, however, Her Highness's poor steed--suffering perhaps from a bad batch of oats--began to expel gas in a remarkably rhythmic way with each step, step, step across the English countryside.
Elizabeth the Second--by the grace of God, the queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other realms and territories, head of the commonwealth, and defender of the faith--was suitably mortified.  "Oh, dear, Mr. President," she said, "I'm so sorry."
"Quite all right, Your Majesty," the president replied.  "I thought it was the horse."
Kinda chips away at the image of austerity to which we're accustomed when it comes to the royal family, doesn't it?  You can read my review of Work Hard, Study...and Stay Out of Politics! for more thoughts on the former Secretary's recollections.  Also, if you would like to order a print of the above photograph from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library you can place your request by visiting the photo archive page here.  The order form asks for the photo catalog number and date; the photograph shown here is C8454-18 and was taken 6/8/82.