From Churchill to Trump: Queen Elizabeth II with World Leaders | History Hit

From Churchill to Trump: Queen Elizabeth II with World Leaders

Teet Ottin

09 May 2022
Queen Elizabeth II stands with European leaders during an event marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day June 5, 2019 in Portsmouth, England.
Image Credit: White House Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-serving current head of state in the world. During her exceptional 7 decade reign, she has met with an astonishing number of world leaders. They include 15 British Prime Ministers, 13 US Presidents and every German Chancellor to have served since the end of World War Two

Here are 13 key figures that Queen Elizabeth has met over the years, from Winston Churchill to Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev to Donald J. Trump. 

Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill, 1941 (left) / Winston Churchill with Queen Elizabeth II (right)

Image Credit: Yousuf Karsh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (left) / Official photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (right)

Widely regarded as one of the most important figures of the 20th century, Winston Churchill served as the Queen’s first Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955. They both met for the first time when Elizabeth was two years old. The Queen and Churchill developed a deep friendship, with Elizabeth II writing a personal handwritten letter to Churchill when he decided to retire from his role as PM.

Following his death, the former Prime Minister was granted a state funeral, something that is usually reserved only for the head of state.

Josip Broz Tito 

Josip Broz Tito – President of the SFR Yugoslavia, picture taken 1961 (right) / The Queen walking with Tito, 1971 (left)

Image Credit: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (right) / Stevan Kragujević, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS , via Wikimedia Commons (left)

On 16 March 1953, the Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito visited Buckingham Palace. The occasion was noteworthy for being the first time following the end of World War Two that a communist leader stepped foot inside a Western country. The first person to shake his hand was the Queen’s husband Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was quite keen on meeting the Yugoslavian leader. 

Tito’s visit was happening while Yugoslavian-Soviet relations reached an all-time low. On 17 March 1953, during a meeting at Downing Street, he insisted that if Stalin was to attack his country, the West should intervene. Tito later became one of the key people in the Non-Aligned Movement. He conducted a second visit in 1971, in which the Queen welcomed him again. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The US President and the First Lady accompany the British royal family on a visit to the National Presbyterian Church, 1957

Image Credit: National Presbyterian Church, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

1953 was not only the year when Elizabeth became the Queen of the United Kingdom and multiple Commonwealth countries, but it was also the year when Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn into office. He became the first US President the Queen met during her reign. Elizabeth II had made acquaintance with President Truman when she was still a princess in 1951.

The Queen visited Eisenhower in 1957 in Washington D.C, where they had dinner at the British embassy. The US President later recalled: “This was one ceremonial visit we were sorry to see end.”

John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy

The Kennedys with The Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 1961

Image Credit: Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

John F. Kennedy served as the 35th President of the United States from 1961 until his death in 1963. He and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy (later Onassis) visited Buckingham Palace in June of 1961. 

The iconic dinner was later dramatised in the popular Netflix series The Crown, but there was some real-life drama happening behind the scenes. The Queen felt reluctant to invite Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister and her husband Prince Stanislaw Radziwill, who were both former divorcees. This was unacceptable in Court at that time. Jacqueline Kennedy also complained about the absence of Princess Margaret and Princess Marina from the guest list, making the whole event duller for her. 

Kwame Nkrumah

Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah with Queen Elizabeth II, 1961

Image Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The Queen has kept a close relationship with the countries in the Commonwealth of Nations, mostly comprised of former British colonies. One of these countries is the West African state of Ghana, which gained its independence in 1957. HRM Elizabeth II decided to visit the country in 1961. Parliament was not thrilled by this, worrying about the rising internal tensions in Ghana, which were caused by President Kwame Nkrumah’s increasingly dictatorial regime.

The Queen was steadfast in her goal of visiting the Commonwealth member, partly the result of a desire to keep Ghana from becoming too close with the Soviet Union.

The visit is generally remembered as a success, with the most famous moment being Elizabeth and Kwame Nkrumah’s dance, which was also later featured in The Crown. It has been debated how much this visit actually guaranteed Ghana not joining the Eastern bloc, with some experts saying that it was not overly impactful.

Hassanal Bolkiah

Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei, 2021 (left) / State visit of Queen Elisabeth II in Brunei on 1 March 1972. Queen Elisabeth II is walking in the first row of the procession with the Sultan of Brunei on her left side (right)

Image Credit: Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons (left) / AnonymousUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (right)

The Sultan of Brunei is one of the few absolute monarchs in the world. Hassanal Bolkiah has been ruling his country since 1967 following his fathers abdication. He met the Queen during her state visit to Brunei in 1972, where she, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne were paraded in a golden chariot, pulled by 64 soldiers.

Indira Gandhi

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh with India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at the President’s Palace, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. 17 November 1983

Image Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Indira Gandhi served as India’s 3rd Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. Widely considered to have been one of the most influential women of the 20th century, to this day she is the only woman to have held the role of PM in her home country. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the 1st Prime Minister of India and the wife of Feroze Gandhi (no relation to Mahatma Gandhi). 

She met HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1969, during a visit to the UK. The Queen has visited India herself on three occasions: in November 1963, April 1990 and in October 1997. 

Ronald Reagan

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stand with President and Mrs. Reagan during a state dinner. The Queen was on a tour of the West Coast of the United States.

Image Credit: U.S. Military, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ronald Reagan, the 40th US President held office from 1981 to 1989, largely defining the decade. His economic policies would have far-reaching effects, some of which are felt to this day. Both Reagan and the Queen shared a love for horses, with both of them riding together during Her Majesty’s visit in 1983. Elizabeth II even managed to make the US President laugh with a joke about the Californian weather during a dinner.

Ronald Reagan was given the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, the highest honour that can be given to a foreign national, in 1989.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev visiting The Queen at Windsor Castle. 7 April 1989

Image Credit: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the USSR, overseeing the programs of glasnost and perestroika. His time as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union saw massive changes in the world’s geopolitical landscape, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the warming up of relations with the West. He also served as the country’s first and last President from 1990 to 1991. 

The Queen met Gorbachev and his wife in Windsor Castle during his visit to the United Kingdom in 1989. He also engaged in talks with the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin shaking hands with Prince Philip. Lyudmila Putina, Tony Blair, and Elizabeth II are in the background.

Image Credit: kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was appointed by Boris Yeltsin to become his successor for the role of President of Russia in 2000. In the coming two decades he would increase his grip on power, leading Russia down a more authoritarian path, while invading two of its neighbours: Georgia and Ukraine.

Elizabeth II met Putin in 2003 during his state visit to the United Kingdom. He allegedly broke Royal protocol by being 15 minutes late for his meeting with the Queen.

George W. Bush

President George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II in WWashington, D.C. 7 May 2007

Image Credit: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

The Queen met the 43rd US president for the first time in 2001 during his visit to London. George W. Bush led the US during some of its most turbulent times following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His presidency remains controversial, with his invasion of Iraq regarded by some as unnecessary and his final term concluding with the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. Britain was one of America’s closest allies during Bush’s military conflicts in the Middle East. 

This picture shows the Queen’s visit to the United States in 2007 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestowne. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush hosted HRM Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in the White House.

Pope Francis

Queen Elizabeth II with Pope Francis in the Vatican. 3 April 2014

Image Credit: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Back in the 16th century, Henry VIII broke England from the Catholic Church. To this day the Anglican denomination is the most widely practiced faith in the United Kingdom, with the Queen as its head. At the same time, the Pope is not only a religious figure, but also the sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis has held the position since 2013, after Benedict XVI resigned as Pope, something that had not happened since 1415. 

The Queen met Pope Francis for the first time in 2014 during her visit to Rome. She broke Vatican etiquette by not wearing black or a veil, instead opting for a purple coat and hat. Francis was not the first pope she met in her lifetime: in total she has made acquaintance with six supreme pontiffs. 

Donald J. Trump

Former President Donald J. Trump and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 13 July 2018

Image Credit: The White House from Washington, DC, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 45th US President, Donald Trump, has been one of the most controversial leaders of recent decades. His rise to prominence has been linked with the rise of the far-right in the Western world and he is famously the only US president to get impeached twice. Following the 2020 election, Trump falsely claimed widespread electoral fraud and attempted to overturn the results by pressuring government officials.

The US president paid an official visit to the United Kingdom in 2018, where he was greeted by the Queen.

Tags: George W. Bush Queen Elizabeth II John F. Kennedy

Teet Ottin

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