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Prior to the 1939 visit of the queen and king of England, Eleanor Roosevelt received a State Department memorandum, listing various rules of protocol. Mrs. Roosevelt became concerned about the order in which the Roosevelts, and the queen and king, should be served at the state dinner honoring the royal couple.1

"I told Franklin," Mrs. Roosevelt recalled, "that British protocol required that the head butler, [Alonzo] Fields, stand with a stop watch in his hand and, thirty seconds after [the president] and the king had been served, dispatch a butler to serve the queen and myself.

. . . I [mentioned] the White House rule that the president was always served first."2

The president declared, "We will not require Fields to have a stop watch. The king and I will be served simultaneously and you and the queen will be served next."3

Fields did not use a stopwatch. The evening was a success, but the armchairs ordered for the occasion were apparently too low for the queen. Fields recalls that, after she was seated, she requested her favorite cushion. Fields sent for it, and, as the queen lifted herself up, the head butler "gently slipped the pillow on the chair."4

Visit of Their Britannic Majesties, June 8, 1939.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library

Footnotes & Resources

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember (New York: Harper, 1949), 186.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.; Alonzo Fields, My 21 Years in the White House (New York: Coward McCann, 1960), 74.