President George W. Bush on Monday once again demonstrated his gift for the gaffe, injecting an unintended sense of levity into the White House welcome for Queen Elizabeth II.
In his speech on the south lawn of the White House, he noted that the queen had made repeated visits to the US during her reign, including celebrations to mark the country's 200th anniversary.
"The American people are proud to welcome Your Majesty back to the United States, a nation you've come to know very well," Bush said. "After all, you've dined with 10 US presidents. You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 ... in 1976."
As the laughter rippled through the crowd of 7,000 invited guests corralled behind red, white and blue bunting, Bush tried to make light of his slip.
He shot a quick look at the queen, and said: "You gave me a look that only a mother could give a child."
But by then, Bush's discomfort with the pageantry that a royal visit entails was an open secret. His wife, Laura Bush, told ABC television on Monday morning that she and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to use all their persuasive powers to coax him into a white tie for the state banquet.
It was to be the first white-tie event of his administration.
"I don't know how thrilled he was about this — but, of course, when you're hosting the queen of England, of course you want to have it be white tie," Laura Bush said. "This is the perfect occasion for it — and he was a very good sport."
However, that sense of sportsmanship was not very evident at the White House yesterday morning when Bush appeared to treat the visit by the queen like that of any world leader, launching into a boiler plate address on the war on terror.
He praised Britain's historic contributions such as the Magna Carta in equal measure to its contribution in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Today our two nations are defending liberty against tyranny and terror. We're resisting those who murder the innocent to advance a hateful ideology, whether they kill in New York or London or Kabul or Baghdad," he said.Bush went on to pay tribute to the monarch's personal contribution in the war on terror.