As the State Visit comes to an end, the President and First Lady host an intimate, star-studded dinner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II...
On Wednesday evening in London, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Return State Dinner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Winfield House in Regent's Park. It was the final celebration of US-UK relations, and the end of the President's State Visit, which included his first address to Parliament. The black-tie dinner was in contrast to the lavish State Banquet Her Majesty hosted Tuesday at Buckingham Palace, and had a small number of guests. Her Majesty signed the guest book with the President and First Lady after the closed-press dinner began. (Above: The President, First Lady, and the Duke of Edinburgh look on as The Queen signs the guestbook)
Attendees included J.K. Rowling, film stars Colin Firth and Tom Hanks, soccer superstar David Beckham, and Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha. The evening's three-course meal included lobster ravioli and griddled filet of aged Highlands beef; the full menu IS HERE. Dinner began at 8:30PM, and after, at 10:30 PM, the Queen, the President, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Mrs. Obama retired to a different room so The Queen could sign the Distinguished Visitors Book.
President Obama helped her with her chair, and Her Majesty said she wanted to sign the left page, which she did. Prince Philip also leaned in and signed the book. The Queen was overheard by the press pool thanking The President and First Lady for the evening, but no formal remarks were made.
For the affair, the President wore a black tuxedo with a bow tie. Mrs. Obama was attired in a black gown with a silk bodice and crepe skirt, designed by American Ralph Lauren. She accented it with jewelry that was laden with diamonds. Both of Mrs. Obama's gowns for the State Visit were designed by Americans; for the State Banquet, she wore a gown designed by Tom Ford. During the most recent State Dinner held at the White House, for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Mrs. Obama received criticism in the press for selecting a gown designed by a British designer. The Queen wore a long white evening dress with gold and silver sequins, designed by Brit Angela Kelly. Her Majesty wore an emerald suite of earrings and necklace, white gloves, and held her signature purse – although it was a gold one, for evening – on her arm.
As she arrived at the dinner, the President and First Lady greeted The Queen on the front steps of Winfield House, home to US Ambassadors since 1955, at 8:10 PM local time. (Above)
The mansion, built in 1937, is on 12 1/2 acres in Regent's Park. Her Majesty arrived with her husband in her maroon State Bentley. Bentley Motors gave the specially designed vehicle to The Queen for her Golden Jubilee in 2002. (Above: The President and First Lady escort the The Queen and The Duke into dinner)
The President and First Lady greeted the Royal couple and the foursome turned to pose for the cameras. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and there were no other photos of arrivals.
After dinner, Tony Award-winning singer and actress Kristin Chenoweth performed. (Above: President Obama holds The guest book open for The Queen to sign)
While waiting for the Queen, President Obama spotted White House “press wranglers” Ben Finkenbinder and Josh Lipsky in their tuxedos, and he complimented them for cleaning up so well.
"You even shaved," said the pleased President.
WH officials suggest the press pool not complain...
The State Visit also included a small State Spanking. The President's pool reporters were held in a two-car garage during the dinner, and perhaps with memories of the Biden reporter-in-a-closet incident in their minds, White House officials emailed the pool reporters to say that if they planned to include in reports that they were holding in a garage, the White House requested that they add this quote from deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest:
"The pool is holding in the large garage at Winfield House that is furnished with: hot food, Internet connections, tables, chairs, power outlets and easy access to restrooms. If the pool would prefer to hold in the vans during future events, we can, of course, make the necessary arrangements."
The President travels to France on Thursday for the G8 meetings, hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
*Top photo from The British Monarchy; others by Getty.