Ah yes, the talking hat. Any life is made of moments, some poignant, some funny, some profound, some light. Much has already been written of the political contributions of George H.W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America, who has died at the age of 94. But among the moments that make up his legacy is the time he helped turn the Queen into a talking hat.
The incident took place in May 1991 when Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived at the White House for a State Visit to the US, the third such trip she had made in her reign. President Bush took to the podium first with a speech of welcome before making way for his guest. However, he left the stand as he had found it meaning that when the Queen stepped up to talk, the microphone was so high that her face was hidden from the TV cameras and people around the world could only see her hat as she gave her speech.
It made headlines around the world. The image of the Queen’s bright purple hat appearing to speak to the United States became one of the most famous photos of the year and one of the most talked about moments of President Bush Senior’s time in the Oval Office.
However, the Queen appeared to be rather amused by the incident. Just days later as she became the first British monarch to address Congress, she made light of it, telling her audience she hoped they could see her this time around. The relationship between the Queen and the 41st President was clearly warm and respectful on both sides, as could be seen when they enjoyed a State Dinner at the White House during the visit while they clearly had a great time when they headed to a baseball game during the trip.
The Queen had been one of the first heads of state to officially host George H W Bush following his inauguration as President, welcoming him to Buckingham Palace just months after he took office in 1989. And after he left office, she made him an Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
However, it is those few minutes on the lawn of the White House that remain the lingering memory of the links between the 41st US President and the Queen. One moment in a famous and celebrated lifetime and one more reason to remember George H W Bush, the President who helped create the royal talking hat.