In January 1960 a letter arrived at the White House in Washington.
It was for the president, and it contained a recipe for drop scones.
“Dear Mr President,” it read. “Seeing a picture of you in today’s newspaper standing in front of a barbecue grilling quail reminded me that I had never sent you the recipe for the drop scones, which I provided you at Balmoral.
“Now, I hasten to do so, and I hope you will find them successful.”
It was a letter from the Queen to President Dwight Eisenhower. She was honouring a culinary promise she had made to him a year earlier.
The handwritten, informal letter is a hint of a close relationship and perhaps a nod to what would become an enduring “special relationship” between Britain and America.
As Queen, Elizabeth met all but one of America’s presidents since Eisenhower, but he was the one with whom she had the closest bond.
She was the wartime princess and Eisenhower was the wartime general, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, who oversaw Operation Torch in North Africa and Operation Overlord (D-Day) in northern France.
They had met and formed a bond during the war and after it, in London and at Balmoral.
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“It’s very moving because World War Two was one of those conflicts that really bound people,” the president’s granddaughter Susan Eisenhower told me.
“You’re talking about the Supreme Allied Commander, and the Royal Family, who had really played an extraordinary role in inspiring Great Britain and the world during this really very dangerous time,” she said. “This is where the special relationship begins in a kind of earnest way.”
Researching this story allowed for an indulgence in the video archives. The Queen’s first state visit to America in 1957 was a remarkable spectacle.
The black and white film shows her approaching New York City by boat. The skyscraper skyline of Manhattan, breathtaking still now, must have been something quite extraordinary back then.
The ticker tape parade through the avenues of Manhattan shows the remarkable enthusiasm this nation had for the British Royal Family.
“The way my grandparents chose to mark her first visit to the United States as Queen, really underscored the intimacy of this friendship,” Ms Eisenhower tells me.
More footage shows the Queen and Prince Phillip together with President Eisenhower and the First Lady. They seem relaxed; the bond is clear.
The First Lady insisted the royal couple stay in the White House itself. Foreign dignitaries usually stay in nearby Blair House.
‘The Queen’s Bedroom’
“My grandparents insisted she be treated like a guest of the family, and she stayed in a room that was often used by out-of-town house guests,” Ms Eisenhower recalls.
“But my grandmother promptly dubbed it the Queen’s Bedroom and brought it into a special category, really, where only the most important guests for the president and first lady would allow anyone to stay in.”
The special relationship, cited so often, grew from here and through so many presidencies too.
It was the Queen, not the politicians, who anchored the trans-Atlantic friendship. The politicians came and went. She was the constant.
Observing how America has marked her death this past week has been fascinating.
“I’m going to miss this woman very much. It’s so interesting. I know all Americans feel that way, but she was really kind of a queen to all of us and a real North Star for us,” Ms Eisenhower said.
More than 200 years since the United States declared its independence from the British crown, Americans remain peculiarly entwined with Britain and its Royal Family.
The cable news networks have been wall-to-wall with their coverage; anchors dispatched to London for almost every show on every network.
The commentary has not been without important critical analysis (not so obvious in the UK) – “Mourn the Queen, not her Empire” was the New York Times headline on the day of her death.
But by and large, the most vocal reflections have been affectionate and suggest many in this nation adored the woman she was and found a cute curiosity with the institution she represented.
This is, after all, the nation that invented the Disney princess and lapped up Downton Abbey and The Crown. The passing of the real deal was always going to have a huge impact this side of the pond.
More seriously, though, I sense an envy among Americans. Over decades, they have observed a Queen who provides unity, an apolitical focal figure in society of a kind that they don’t have.
So what now? How will the special relationship develop?
So, what was the secret of the scones?
In his reflections, President Biden remarked on the Queen’s “constancy”. She anchored the relationship.
President Bill Clinton once remarked the Queen had the qualities of a politician and a diplomat, but the skill of never quite seeming to be either. Can the same be said for King Charles?
King Charles doesn’t have the Queen’s affinity for America, and Prime Minister Liz Truss has not (yet) recognised the special relationship in quite the way those before her have done.
As for the culinary tips, will more recipes be shared between royals and presidents? We’ll see. But here, for posterity, are the Queen’s drop scone pointers to a president.
“I generally put in less flour and milk, but use the other ingredients as stated,” the Queen wrote.
“I’ve also tried using golden syrup or treacle instead of only sugar, and I think that can be very good too. I think the mixture needs a great deal of beating while making and shouldn’t stand about too long before cooking.”
Source : Sky.com