(CNN)Almost five months into her new job, Jill Biden is still revealing what kind of first lady she wants to be, but one thing is already clear: you can call her “Jill.”
Biden has insisted at just about every turn that people address her by her first name. She means it — people actually call her that or, sometimes, “Dr. B.” The familiar approachability is part of the Biden narrative, and an aspect of her personality into which she leans hard. This week, however, Biden steps into a global spotlight, complete with the expectations that come with being the spouse of the leader of the free world, and one that includes an audience with the Queen of England. Yet Biden has not had withering bouts of nervousness, nor has she scrutinized the choreography of royal protocol, two people familiar with the first lady’s thinking in the run-up to the trip tell CNN.”Put her in a palace with a Queen, or wherever you want, she’s ‘Jill from Philly,’ ” says one longtime acquaintance of Biden, when asked if the first lady might maintain her casualness while in the presence of one of the most formally nuanced people in the world. Internally, embracing her down-home roots is fine, but externally, meeting Queen Elizabeth II involves a curtsy, speaking only when spoken to, and making sure the royal is always leading the encounter, whether she sits or stands or walks — the guest does so only after Her Royal Majesty. Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II and US President Donald Trump inspect a guard of honor during Trump’s visit to Windsor Castle in 2018. Since the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952, 12 US presidents have been elected. She has met with nearly all of them.Hide Caption 1 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpHarry Truman: She wasn’t Queen yet, but during a state visit to the United States in 1951, Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were received by former President Harry Truman and his wife, Bess. Truman is the only US President that Elizabeth met while she was a princess.Hide Caption 2 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpHerbert Hoover: Hoover finished his tenure as President long before Elizabeth ascended to the throne. However, the opportunity for a meeting between the two arose in 1957 during the Queen’s royal tour of the United States. Hoover is seated here to the Queen’s right.Hide Caption 3 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpDwight D. Eisenhower: Eisenhower was the first serving President who Elizabeth met during her reign; he was also her host during her first state visit to the United States in 1957. They also met during a visit to Canada two years later in 1959. The Queen welcomed Eisenhower to the country before they formally opened the St. Lawrence Seaway with a short cruise aboard the royal yacht Britannia.Hide Caption 4 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpJohn F. Kennedy: Amid much fanfare and huge media interest, Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were dinner guests at Buckingham Palace in June 1961. He later wrote that he would “cherish the memory of that delightful evening,” in a birthday letter written to the Queen. He added: “The people of the United States join with me in extending to your Majesty and to the people of the Commonwealth best wishes and hearty congratulations on the occasion of the celebration of your birthday. … May I also at the same time say how grateful my wife and I are for the cordial hospitality offered to us by your Majesty and Prince Phillip during our visit to London last Monday. We shall always cherish the memory of that delightful evening.”Hide Caption 5 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpRichard Nixon: Nixon met Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace shortly after becoming the 37th US President in 1969. The Queen prepared signed photographs of herself and Prince Philip as a small memento of the meeting. Nixon also brought a signed headshot. “I didn’t bring my wife along this time, ’cause this trip was so hurried,” he said. “But we just had a picture taken of the two of us. I would like to send you one of that because it would be much more pleasant to look at the two of us.” Laughing, the Queen responded, “That’s very nice of you.”Hide Caption 6 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpGerald Ford: Ford and the Queen dance during a state dinner at the White House in 1976.Hide Caption 7 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpJimmy Carter: During a 1977 dinner at Buckingham Palace, Carter described the home of the British monarch as “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. And I think the whole royal family was there. … I had a good place to sit — I was between the Queen and Princess Margaret, and across the table was Prince Charles and Prince Philip and the Queen Mother.” He continued: “One of the things I told Queen Elizabeth was how much the American people appreciated her coming over last year to celebrate our 200th birthday. And she said that it was one of the warmest welcomes she’d ever received.”Hide Caption 8 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpRonald Reagan: The Reagans were the first US family to be the Queen’s overnight guests at Windsor Castle in 1982. In his memoirs, “An American Life”, the former President recalled his visit with the British royal family: “The highlight of our stay there came when the Queen and I went horseback riding together and Nancy and Prince Philip took a horse-drawn carriage ride. I must admit, the Queen is quite an accomplished horsewoman. We will always remember our visit to Windsor Castle because of the Queen’s and Prince Philip’s warmth and welcoming hospitality — they could not have been more gracious.”Hide Caption 9 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpGeorge H.W. Bush: Bush visited the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1989, and in May 1991, she was guest of honor at a state dinner in the White House. The pair exchanged toasts about the legacy of human rights and the rule of law bequeathed upon the United States by Great Britain. Meanwhile, the Queen spoke about her previous visits to the White House and the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Bush said during his welcome address: “We have got a lot of things in common. Americans share the Queen’s love for horses. … Most of all what links our countries is less a place than an idea. The idea that for nearly 400 years has been America’s inheritance and England’s bequest: the legacy of democracy, the rule of law and basic human rights.”Hide Caption 10 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpBill Clinton: Clinton met the Queen more than once during his tenure. He said: “She’s a highly intelligent woman who knows a lot about the world. … I always marvel when we meet at what a keen judge she is of human events. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her very much.” During a trip to Europe in 2000, Clinton said he noticed that although the Queen’s hair had turned gray, she had what he described as “youthful eyes.” He added: “She has these baby blue eyes, just piercing.”Hide Caption 11 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpGeorge W. Bush: Bush visited Britain on an official state visit in 2003, and the Queen went to the United States in 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. During his welcome speech, Bush fluffed his lines and said: ”You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17–. ” Realizing his mistake of suggesting the then-81-year-old queen had been on the throne since the 18th century, Bush turned to the monarch and winked at her. Later Bush said she gave him “a look that only a mother could give a child.” Here they are pictured in June 2004 watching a flyover in Arromanches, France. It was the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.Hide Caption 12 of 13 Photos: All the Queen's presidents: From Truman to TrumpBarack Obama: “There’s one last thing that I should mention that I love about Great Britain, and that is the Queen,” Obama said at the end of his joint press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a visit to the UK in 2009. “And so I’m very much looking forward to meeting her for the first time later this evening. … I think in the imagination of people throughout America, I think what the Queen stands for and her decency and her civility, what she represents, that’s very important.” Later, during a reception for G-20 leaders, Michelle Obama was seen to take the unusual step of putting her hand briefly on the back of the Queen. This was against protocol, but the monarch seemed to have reached out her hand first and didn’t appear bothered by the first lady’s gesture.Hide Caption 13 of 13The first lady and President Joe Biden will meet with the Queen on Sunday at Windsor Castle, according to a statement from the first lady’s office. Read MoreOn Wednesday, aboard Air Force One, Biden tweeted a photo of herself thumbing through a giant binder with the caption, “Prepping for the G7” — a last-minute cram session before wheels touched down. The people familiar with Biden’s schedule in the run-up to the trip indicated the first lady did not obsess over details weeks in advance. One White House staffer says Biden has little interest in the formality of “where to stand, or whether or not to hold someone’s hand or give them a hug. She just does what she feels.” (Conversely, Joe Biden will be the 12th US President the Queen has met during her 69-year reign — she likely already knows where to stand.) A State Department official who worked in the protocol office during previous administrations notes the instructions from the Palace about world leader visits is “rigorous.” The State Department will send memos to the East Wing staff in advance about particularities with a visit, passed along from the Palace, as well as detailed outlines of each person the first lady might come in contact with, what their role is and how to address said person. And, in a pinch, the chief of protocol is on hand to brief ahead of meetings, to answer any questions throughout the visit, and to help procure, research and vet any gifts exchanged between the leaders. (When the Obamas first met the Queen in 2009 they gave her an iPod filled with videos and photos of her 2007 trip to Virginia.)The current acting chief of protocol, Asel Roberts, is part of the entourage traveling with the President and first lady in England this week.Avoiding protocol pitfallsUS President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive on Air Force One at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall.Of course, all of this preparation is there for the “just in case.” The choreography and tick-tock precision of a visit with a monarch is nothing new, it is expected and by most accounts, appreciated. What matters is how each first lady chooses to embrace the protocol that could determine their success. Biden’s predecessor, Melania Trump, was, according to many people who worked with her, a stickler for the details, paying close attention to every part of a foreign visit, every step, pause, program, entrance and exit. (It was her husband Donald Trump’s irreverence to some of this study that often led to gaffes, such as when he walked ahead of Queen Elizabeth during his visit to Windsor Castle, or when he walked ahead of his wife on the tarmac after deplaning in Israel, causing her to swat his hand away when he realized his oversight.) Who can forget then-first lady Michelle Obama’s 2009 meeting with the Queen, wherein she placed her arm around the monarch’s shoulder, creating a kerfuffle? The move was pure Obama, friendly and instinctual, a sign of warmth and friendship — and the Queen reciprocated with an arm, albeit awkwardly, around Obama’s waist. No matter the intent, Obama’s gesture was taken by the British press as an affront. Touching the Queen is verboten, unless of course she touches you first. “I think Dr. Biden is seeking to be far more accessible and relatable than most of her predecessors, with the exception of Michelle Obama who had a similar approach,” says historian Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies,” of Biden’s first overseas visit as first lady. “She is not an imperial first lady, like Nancy Reagan — who was so involved in her husband’s administration that she helped orchestrate President Reagan’s first meeting in Geneva with [former Russian leader Mikhail] Gorbachev. I would not expect Dr. Biden to be doing anything like that.”Biden’s schedule does not have her joining the President for his two stops after England, first to Brussels, Belgium, for NATO meetings, and then to Geneva, Switzerland, for what is likely to be a contentious meeting with Vladimir Putin. “Dr. Biden will be bringing a softer message. She’ll be resetting the American image abroad as much as the President does,” says Brower, adding, “I think she’ll stay away from politics.”Flexing her independenceUS President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden make their way to board Marine One before departing from The Ellipse, near the White House, in Washington, DC on June 9, 2021. Biden may stay away from the tenuous issues that face her husband on this European trip, but she is carving time to endorse her own agenda. A White House official tells CNN the first lady will “engage in several substantive events, independent from the President.” Though Biden’s schedule includes time with leader spouses for planned G7 activities — a common occurrence at summits such as these — it also makes time for at least three separate, solo events, two of which involve promoting Joining Forces, her initiative that helps military families.On Friday, there is a rumored meet-up for Biden with the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The East Wing would not respond to questions confirming the meeting, which as of Thursday morning remains formally unannounced by both the Palace and the White House, or what it might entail. If the two women do attend an event together, it would be the first time they have met in person. On Saturday, Biden will meet with members of Bude Surf Veterans, a local volunteer group that assists British military veterans with physical or mental health injuries through surfing. “She will host a discussion with veterans and their families about the impact of the program and on their health and well-being,” according to guidance from the East Wing. President Biden's First Trip Abroad
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The program is partially funded by the Invictus Games Foundation, a wounded warrior charity founded by Prince Harry, with whom Biden shares a close, personal friendship. They met in 2012 during an event for wounded warriors at the British Ambassador’s residence in Washington when Biden was second lady. The two stayed in touch and over the last several years, Biden has been a proponent of Prince Harry’s causes, attending multiple Invictus Games events. (In 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden joked about being jealous of his wife’s friendship with the young royal, saying to the press, “Jill went to London for the last Games. She spent too much damn time with Prince Harry!”)Finally, on Sunday, post-Queen, Biden has another solo outing, this one confirmed by her office, to meet with British veterans who participated in Walk of America, a 2018 expedition for which Biden served as patron. Led by the group Walking for the Wounded, three veterans from the United States and three from the UK walked 1,000 miles across America, sharing stories of fellow service members wounded or injured during their time in the military.The White House official says outside of Biden’s primary participation on the trip as “supportive spouse,” and her “ceremonial role of first lady, she intends to use her platform abroad as she has been doing at home.””This type of foreign trip might have some new trappings, but the ritual is familiar to Jill Biden,” says one of the people familiar with her thinking. During her eight years as second lady, Biden made approximately 20 trips to foreign countries, mostly accompanying her husband, but many with solo objectives. “She’s not naïve to the importance of a world audience, she knows the expectations,” says the acquaintance. “I think the expectations are just that she be kind and warm,” says Brower. “After this last year and the trauma of the pandemic, [Biden’s] job is to remind the world that Americans care about what goes on beyond our borders. She is not arm candy.”‘Caring too much about fashion is not her thing’President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk to a motorcade vehicle after stepping off Air Force One at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. As with visits such as these in the past, dating pre-Jacqueline Kennedy up to Melania Trump, there will no doubt be some focus on how or what Biden might wear. “The curse of the East Wing,” says a former East Wing staffer from a previous administration, “is knowing whether we want it to or not there will be headlines about her clothes.” The double-edged sword of fashion is that it can be the catalyst for a first lady “moment,” but it can also distract from the serious work she brings to the table. Biden’s office has rarely commented publicly about her wardrobe, and does not intend to start with this trip. A person who works with a notable fashion magazine tells CNN that Biden has been in touch with New York City-based designers about looks for her first foreign trip, but it is likely there will not be the hubbub over what she wears as there was with Trump, for example, who wore a $51,500 Dolce & Gabbana jacket to a leader-spouse event at her first G7 in 2017. That’s not to say Biden, who often wears looks by Brandon Maxwell, Gabriella Hearst and Oscar de la Renta, doesn’t appreciate a luxury label. On Wednesday, she arrived in England wearing a Ralph Lauren Collection blazer and a Michael Kors Collection white sheath dress, two high-end lines with price tags that hover in the $1,000-$1,500 range per piece.”I think she will be going out of her way to showcase American designers like Michelle Obama often did on her trips,” says Brower. “And I think she will not wear anything as expensive and unattainable as Melania often wore.” One of the people familiar with Biden’s mindset says that “caring too much about fashion is not her thing.” This person also says many of the first lady’s most expensive items carry personal value and were bestowed as gifts, such as the Valentino tote bag customized with portraits of her two German Shepherds, Champ and Major. Biden’s gold “Panthère” Cartier watch is also thought to have been received as a personal gift, according to the acquaintance.”She doesn’t like to talk about her clothes. That’s because of who she is, but also because of the pandemic and the last four years when image outweighed substance,” says Brower, who adds, however, as first lady, visual cues matter. “While this isn’t Jackie Kennedy in Paris in the spring of 1961, Dr. Biden is obviously someone who enjoys fashion.” Kennedy, revered for her style, youth and exuberance, was, like Jill, a first-name-only first lady. “Jackie,” as America would come to refer to her, was not necessarily similar to “Jill,” yet each grasp the power of their public persona. “I expect she’ll be restrained, but still have some fun,” says Brower.
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