Gerald R. Ford Museum
Exhibits, Events, Education Center

303 Pearl Street, NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

616-254-0400 (tel)
616-254-0386 (fax)

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Hours: 9:00am-5:00pm (Mon-Sat)
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm Sundays
(Closed New Year's, Thanksgiving, & Christmas Days)


Gerald R. Ford Library
Research, Events, Small Exhibits

1000 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

734-205-0555 (tel)
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Hours: 8:45am-4:45pm (Mon-Fri)
(Closed Federal Holidays)



Entertaining Royalty: The State Dinner for Queen Elizabeth

President Ford and Queen Elizabeth dance.
B0570-24. President Ford and Queen Elizabeth dance.

 

President and Mrs. Ford visit with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the Second Floor Family Dining Room before lunch.
B0551-22A. President and Mrs. Ford visit with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the Second Floor Family Dining Room before lunch.
President and Mrs. Gerald R. Ford hosted a White House dinner in honor of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on July 7, 1976. The visit by the Queen was part of the celebration of the bicentennial of the American Revolution. This page provides a sampling of documents and photographs relating to that dinner. Please click on any of the images to view larger versions.

First Lady Betty Ford's Description of the Dinner
from her memoir The Times of My Life, New York: Harper & Row, 1978, pp. 224-225)

President Ford toasts Queen Elizabeth.
B0570-6. President Ford toasts Queen Elizabeth.

We put up a tent for the Queen's dinner. There were so many state events coming up one right after the other that without the tent we'd probably have had to close the White House to the public for a good portion of the summer, and it was the Bicentennial year and the influx of tourists was heavy. A tent over the Rose Garden would be the answer, just a great white tent which would also enable us to invite more guests than we could have served indoors. (For indoor dining, the White House can handle 150 people at one time, and that's pushing it.)
Invitation to the dinner
An hour and a half before the Queen's dinner, there was a sudden downpour with torrential rain, thunder, lightning. Three trees on the White House grounds were struck. Fortunately, I'd insisted that our tent have a floor. (1'd been thinking of an outdoor party the Nixons had given for some newly released prisoners of war and their wives. It had been raining for three days, and the chairs just gradually sank into the ground. And all those poor wives, who'd gone out and bought beautiful new shoes, ruined them in the mud.) "We'll have a floor and a carpet," I'd said. "It will be just like a room." President Ford introduces Cary Grant to Queen Elizabeth in the receiving line prior to the dinner
B0562.33. President Ford introduces Cary Grant to Queen Elizabeth in the receiving line prior to the dinner (cropped).
Menu for the dinner program, cover program, page 3

I'd seen it done at the French Embassy and been very impressed, a room added right onto the building beyond some French doors. It was heated and had red velvet walls and crystal chandeliers hanging from tent poles and paintings against the velvet, and you couldn't believe you were outside.

I went to Rex Scouten, because he knew what could be done, and what funds were available to do it with, and which people we could ask for more money. Americans were generous during the Bicentennial year, and so were numbers of foreign visitors, who wanted to pay their respects to the country on its two-hundredth birthday. Lots of them made donations to the Kennedy Center and to the White House.

For the Queen's dinner, we had violinists stationed along the paths, and to be out in the gorgeous night air, with the moon shining down and the violins playing as you walked by, was unforgettable.

B0570-13. President Ford acknowledges the toast of Queen Elizabeth.
B0570-13. President Ford acknowledges the toast of Queen Elizabeth.

Prince Philip and Mrs. Ford dance.
B0570-28. Prince Philip and
Mrs. Ford dance.

The Queen was easy to deal with. She was very definite about what she wanted and what she didn't want. She loves Bob Hope and Telly Savalas, so we invited Bob Hope and Telly Savalas -- both came -- and if I hadn't kept mixing up Your Highness and Your Majesty (he's His Highness, she's Her Majesty) I'd give myself four stars for the way that visit went off.