- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

Blazing heat and dark, ominously clouded skies didn't have the slightest effect on the British Embassy's garden party honoring Queen Elizabeth II's golden jubilee.

Her majesty would have been pleased at the efficient manner in which loyal subjects dealt with the rain on her parade of Royal Marines, to say nothing of the heavily laden tables of food and drink set up outside for Wednesday's event. As the marines hastily beat an advance retreat in a sudden cloudburst, the tables were disassembled hastily and moved indoors. Then, mere minutes later, when all was brightness again, back out they went.

Stiff upper lip and all that. As former Chief of Protocol Selwa S. "Lucky" Roosevelt, put it: "The British are the best organized people in the world."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, retired Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., Ken Duberstein, Susan Eisenhower, Togo and Gail West, Joe and Barbi Allbritton, Frederick and Diana Prince, Lloyd and Ann Hand, Bill and Dorothy McSweeny, John Irelan, Arnaud and Alexandra de Borchgrave, Christopher Ogden and Sally Bedell Smith joined numerous members of the diplomatic corps among the 500 guests strolling throughout the compound's lush but slightly soggy grounds for the much-awaited event celebrating the queen's 50 years on the throne. Ladies appeared in spring dresses, many with floral patterns or polka dots, but very few hats which would be de rigueur at a similar event at Buckingham Palace.

"They squash down my hair, and besides, It's not as hot in England," Nina Pillsbury said as Elizabeth Drew promenaded nearby in a red straw chapeau. "It's only right and proper," the political writer said, sounding ever so cockneyesque for the moment.

Garnett Stackelberg was among the handful of Americans present who actually had met the queen, in her case back in the mid-1970s during a state visit to the Ford White House. The two are practically related, in fact. (Her late husband, Baron Constantine Stackelberg, was a second cousin of Prince Philip's uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten.)

Like others acquainted with the monarch, Mrs. Roosevelt observed that the queen is hardly the stiff, severe-looking personage one is accustomed to seeing at the opening of Parliament and other televised state occasions.

"She has a great sense of humor and an adorable smile that transforms her face," Mrs. Roosevelt said before recalling a 1980s-era state visit when the queen jokingly revealed that Princess Margaret had called to say she was tired of watching her sister on television wearing the same mackintosh over and over again:

"'It simply won't do. Don't you have something else?' Margaret complained. Of course, the queen had brought all her wonderful matching outfits along, but there was nothing she could do. It was raining all the time."

Princess Margaret died in February, and the Queen Mother died in March, so it has, as British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer noted, been a "sad year" for his long-reigning head of state. Nevertheless, he said, her jubilee has "evoked a very, very strong response of loyalty, affection and real enthusiasm."

More than 1 million people were in the streets of London during the recent celebrations, signaling that the monarchy has come a long way since the dark days after the death of Princess Diana, when the queen was criticized for initially refusing to lower the British flag to half-mast as a sign of respect for her former daughter-in-law.

"People didn't think she was sympathetic enough, but everyone has moved beyond that now," Mrs. Pillsbury said, adding that she hoped the queen would reign another 25 years.

This is entirely possible, given the longevity of her family and the lengthy reigns of various ancestors, including George III (59 years) and Victoria (63 years).

Her popularity endures, as well, as much now as when she acceded to the throne at the youthful age of 25.

"I have never been in doubt that the queen enjoys overwhelming support among the British people," Amb. Meyer said after his toast to his sovereign (and President Bush) on the embassy lawns. "She is going to be with us for a very, very long time to come."


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