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Soon: King Charles III To Hold Audience At Buckingham Palace; What Does Queen's Death Mean For The Monarchy?; From Truman To Biden: Queen Elizabeth And U.S. Presidents. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 10, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: A fanfare of trumpeters, as King Charles the third is formally proclaimed Britain's new monarch. I'm Michael Smerconish with CNN's continuing special coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth. This hour, the new king is expected to hold audiences at Buckingham Palace with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the dean of Westminster. We'll go straight to that when it happens.
Charles's ascension to the throne marks a pivotal moment for the United Kingdom. The Kingdom is facing a potential breakup as Scotland presses for independence, and an uncertain position in the world after leaving the E.U.
Let's go now to CNN's Max Foster, he's at Buckingham Palace. Max, you've been doing a great job. I've so enjoyed your commentary. What is occurring at this particular moment?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR & ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Audiences at Buckingham Palace. So we're into the more mundane matters, if you like after a lot of the pomp and ceremony where the king has to meet all the key people in the state and have meetings with them in order to govern over this state.
Look at the crowds, I mean, today the barriers have gone up. The roads have been closed. They are preparing for the massive state funeral which President Biden has confirmed he will be coming to but we could see, you know, all the senior heads of state from around the world coming in. I know that President Putin, for example, enjoyed his visit to London, will he be allowed to come under sanctions is a big question.
President Xi as well really enjoyed his state visit to the United Kingdom. The thing about the Queen as she always rose above politics, she was the most revered head of state in the world, I'd argue, certainly the longest serving. So we're really gearing up to a massive state event, I think something of the likes we've never seen before.
SMERCONISH: So on that issue of the way in which she was always able to be elevated from the politics of the day, must he now comport himself differently say than he did on matters of public policy as the Prince of Wales. FOSTER: As the Prince of Wales, he professionalized what it was to be heir to the throne. He had his Playboy years early on, but many of his predecessors were playboys right up until the time that they took the throne. That wasn't the case for Charles.
He, very early on, set up the Prince's trust. He committed to issues like climate change to religious tolerance, to youth unemployment, these were issues that he has nurtured for decades. He cares so deeply about them. He would write to ministers about them. He was accused of meddling in politics.
His view was that he was allowed to express opinions whilst he wasn't on the throne. But once he reached the throne, he would rise above politics in the same way that his mother did. So we never knew any of the Queen's opinions about anything beyond resources, frankly. She always kept a straight face and we never knew where she was. So we were able to project our own thoughts effectively onto her. She was a mirror.
Charles won't be that because we do know he's had opinions. But he made very clear in his address to the nation last night, that the issues he cares so deeply about, he will now leave to other people. So he's got to read and define himself as an apolitical independent head of state. And that's his big challenge now, even to the, you know, the senior figures that he's meeting in the palace behind me today.
SMERCONISH: So as he's about to receive the Archbishop of Canterbury, I wanted to ask Max Foster, what does it mean to be defender of the faith? I keep hearing these references made to this role of the King of England as being defender of the faith.
FOSTER: So, the King has many roles, they are head of the armed forces. They are a branch of Parliament. They are also head of the judiciary, head of the Commonwealth, but also head of the Church of England. So the King is the supreme governor of the Church of England and defender of the faith.
There's an interesting moment today where we had -- where at the session council. And the first thing that Charles did was guarantee the independence of the Church of Scotland. So he isn't the head of the Church of Scotland. In Scotland, church and state have separated but because of history, there's a huge sensitivity around that. And he assured the Church of Scotland that they would remain independent.
This is part of all the boxes that needed to be ticked today. What we had in the accession council was a unbelievable moment, are quite plain television pictures you could argue about this accession council goes right back to the early days of monarchy more than 1,000 years. And never before has the public been allowed in.
This is the moment where the British establishment endorse effectively the new King. And then that endorsement is proclaimed to the nation afterwards on the balcony there that moment there at St. James's Palace, the oldest Palace, the most revered palace, arguably. S o it was declared to the nation, and those declarations continue now in the nations but also in the realms around the world. So that was a huge moment. All the formalities are now ticked off. And he's now King of the United Kingdom, head of the Commonwealth and all of those things, but it's a complex role.
SMERCONISH: Max, from this side of the pond and just looking at the imagery from CNN, it looks like the crowds are building. Over the span of the next week, what do you think is going to be the best opportunity for public participation? I have in my mind, of course, that scene of Diana's coffin, the envelope, the word mummy, and the throngs and throngs of people. When will there be the moment for public participation?
FOSTER: So people are coming down here, they're laying flowers, they don't want all the flowers to be gathered up outside the palace. So what they're doing slightly different this year is they're creating a garden of remembrance in the big park next to the palace. So they're taking all the flowers there. And what you'll see is an absolute sea of flowers developing, I think that's going to be quite profound.
If I think back to the most comparable moment, although it's not nearly on the scale of this, which is when Diana died, and I went to Kensington Palace, there was a sea of flowers. And there were people standing around silently, just looking at the flowers. Occasionally, you'd hear someone wailing.
I think that's the place where people come to get therapy, effectively in a situation like this. But we all -- we are built over the course of the next few days. And we're getting details of this confirmed right now because the King has to sign everything off. I expect the King to travel around the nations and to meet as many people as he can. So there will be moments there.
But all building up to the state funeral, the exact date of which we don't have probably in just over a week's time, and there will be procession. So what I expect to see is, you know, we're going to have this incredible moment where the Queen's body will lie in states in Westminster, and people will be queuing up, have an opportunity to pass the coffin. And they are planning for miles and miles and miles of queues.
So that's going to be an opportunity, I think, later on next week. And then we have the point where the casket is taken to Westminster Abbey for the funeral, and then there will be a procession after that all the way to Windsor, where the Queen will be laid to rest alongside her parents and Prince Philip. So I think the moment you're talking about with Diana is really that procession from Westminster Abbey to Windsor, and that will be in just over a week's time.
SMERCONISH: Max, a final question, if I may. I know those residences only as a tourist would. Is it clear to you as an expert where everyone will live?
FOSTER: No. What you've had in recent years. So the way that the structure works is that each principal, as they're called, will have their own household. So we did until relatively recently have four households. The Sussexes had their own household attached to Buckingham Palace.
Then there's Kensington Palace, which is the now Prince and Princess of Wales. Clarence house, which is, you know, was Charles and Camilla, and they had Buckingham Palace, which was the Queen. We now have one -- we have two households and many residences. I don't know how it's going to play out.
I do know that Charles's favorite home is Highgrove, his country house in Gloucestershire but he now has Balmoral, he has Buckingham Palace, he has Clarence House. William is keen, I think, to keep a slim down next in line to the throne office smaller than Charles's was. Will he move from Kensington Palace? I don't think he will actually. I think he's very committed to Kensington Palace. So there are empty residences.
The other big question is what happens to Windsor Castle, which is, you know, his -- where the Queen always liked to be. So potentially William could move in there. He's got a house on the grounds at the moment, but Buckingham Palace, I don't think Prince Charles is necessarily that fond, or looking forward to living in Buckingham Palace. So we wonder if he might that -- make that a headquarters for the monarchy, a functional place, perhaps for conferences.
But I think that might be -- my personal view is that might be damaging in the sense that these crowds they come here. Why do they come here? They come here because they look to see if the monitors flag is flying above. Might we see them on go in and out. Might we see the curtains twitch.
This is, in terms of numbers, the biggest tourist attraction in the U.K., and they come here because they think it's a living breathing molecule. So we -- I wonder Charles will do that but he would have decided everything I think years ago and we'll get a sense of it in coming weeks and months.
SMERCONISH: It's funny you say that because I remember taking the tour of Buckingham Palace and thinking, well, we're unlikely to see much of anything. But frankly, it was just tremendous. I was stunned by just how much of that massive edifice you actually do get to say.
Max, thank you so much. I really appreciate your expertise.
FOSTER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more than a dozen United States presidents came and went during her 70-year rule. She met with all but one of them. So what was the special relationship like between the Queen and these leaders of her country's former colony?
And her passing comes in a rocky time for the monarchy and Harry and Meghan bailing, Prince Andrew under a cloud of scandal. Young people, young Brits not sharing the affinity for the crown of their parents. It's also been a rocky time for democracy in America. Will England and America post-Elizabeth survive as we know them? Which brings me to this week's poll question at smerconish.com, which is more secure, American democracy or the British Monarchy? Go vote.
SMERCONISH: For most of us, not just her subjects, Elizabeth is the only ruler of England we've ever known. Quick story, July of 1953, my father was serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. On leave, he travelled to London with a buddy.
They had a chance encounter with the Queen. She was reviewing troops at Hyde Park and he suddenly found himself just 4 feet away from a car carrying her majesty and Prince Philip. Trouble was, his camera was set for 10 feet. Nevertheless, the blurry image he captured became a family keepsake.
Okay, fast forward. 64 summers later, one of his grandsons, my middle son, arrives in London to study. By chance, day one, happens upon Buckingham Palace in the midst of a celebration of the Queen's official 91st birthday and using an iPhone like his grandfather took her photo on the balcony.
15 Prime Ministers, 14 U.S. presidents spanning three generations of my family, just one queen. She's the reason the monarchy has survived these last 70 years whether it continues might depend on how well she's emulated. For decades, Queen Elizabeth was near the top of the list of the most admired people in the world.
And that's despite the fact that too many, the monarchy is an anachronism, undemocratic elitist, the essence of privilege. And yet the Queen overcame those impediments to popularity because of who she was as a human being.
In the Platinum Jubilee celebration, people were asked what one word they associated with her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dignity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unifying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Inspirational.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wisdom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, she's loyal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Consistency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Think about how much we'd be better off if our political leaders were more like her and think about how they too could become among the most admired people in the world if they followed her lead. Elizabeth has been rightly credited with sustaining, modernizing, humanizing the Royals in a time when their purpose and function seem too many to be archaic and outmoded.
But will her efforts survive her? Will either Charles or William command any of the same level of respect, impact, gravitas, not just worldwide, but even domestically? Clive Irving is the author of "The Last Queen."
He recently predicted that her passing would cause problems for the Royals among the 14 other countries around the world for which Elizabeth was head of state, writing quote, "When the Queen's reign ends, they all go off the precipice, I think. They just drive off a precipice because it's only the presence of the Queen."
As for England, Tom Tagg put it this way in the Atlantic, "Generations have known nothing but the Queen. She became almost above reproach and icon on a wall, a symbol. Charles, by contrast, is human and flawed and distinctly irreproachable. With the Queen goes the monarchy's protective shield.
Can the next generation escape the tarnish of racism leveled by Harry and Meghan, or the scandals of Prince Andrew? How long can such an institution really survive? In an era of Black Lives Matter and imperial guilt, can an African child once again be pictured kneeling before some distant European monarch as happened for the Queen's diamond jubilee in 2012?"
A poll by YouGov done at the time of the Platinum Jubilee, just this last May found that 62 percent of Britons said their country should continue to have a monarchy in the future, with only 22 percent saying it should instead move to having an elected head of state.
But there's a stark generational divide. Asked if the monarchy is quote, good for Britain, 74 percent of those 65 and up say yes, 67 percent of those 50 to 64. But ages 25 to 49, the number drops to 49. And among the 18 to 24-year-olds, it's just 24 percent.
Today's front page of The New York Times has this headline. In London, mourning for Queen exposes a generational divide, support for monarchy fades among the youth. There's a chance that post-Elizabeth, the affection for the whole system may splinter. Some of that may just be youthful hostility that could soften over time. Look no further than England's new prime minister herself back in 1994. Liz Truss gave a fiery speech calling for the end of the monarchy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We do not believe that people should be born to rule or that they should put up and shut up about decisions that affect their everyday lives.
We met another group of people and another group of people and all three groups of people said, abolish the monarchy. In fact, conference, we couldn't find a single monarchist outside the Royal Pavilion, how I run it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Now, of course, in her new position of power, trust ended her public condolence speech for the Queen on Thursday with God save the King, a phrase that hasn't been uttered in England for seven decades. Elizabeth's death also comes at a time when there are worries about the stability of democracy around the globe, including here in America.
President Biden hosted a group of historians last month at the White House who warned him the current moment is among the most dangerous to democracy in our history. They likened today's unrest with a period leading up to World War II when growing authoritarianism abroad was being echoed in the United States. And it's not just the historians.
In a recent Quinnipiac survey, 67 percent of American adults said they thought the country's democracy was, quote, in danger of collapse. That's up nine points from January. According to a study from Pew Research, 85 percent of Americans said the U.S. political system either needs major changes or needs to be completely reformed. And among those who say they want significant political reform, 58 percent said they're not confident the system can change.
Just this week, a CBS poll found that a majority of Americans believe political violence in the U.S. will increase and that the country will be less of a democracy for future generations. So are we witnessing not just the end of a reign, but the possible end of two eras? The British monarchy and American democracy.
I want to know what you think, go to my website smerconish.com this hour and answer this week's poll question. Which is more secure, American democracy or the British monarchy?
Joining me now to discuss is Sean Wilentz. He attended the meeting with President Biden, he's a professor of history at Princeton University. His books include "The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln," a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Professor, how will you be answering the poll question this week? Which is more secure democracy in the United States or the monarchy abroad?
SEAN WILENTZ, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIV./ "THE RISE OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: Well, good morning, Michael. First of all, you know, it's something of a trick question, because there are two very different kinds of institutions. They'll make that clear. You know, one -- the monarchy at this point is largely symbolic politically, it has a great deal of influence, but it's not the same thing as American democracy. So there are different what, the currents going on.
But look, I think that America -- that the monarchy will probably last for a long time. It's been there forever. It has changed over the over the years. And, you know, there was a time in the early 19th century, for example, when the monarchy was pretty tawdry. It was nothing like we see today, a lot of the things -- yes, things we think of as traditions were actually invented in the 1970, to try to prop up the monarchy.
So the monarchy has gone through, you know, ebbs and flows. But I think that right now, it's not going to go away anytime soon. What its fate will be will largely be in the hands of Charles III. As far as American democracy is concerned, now that's a much more volatile situation. I mean, the head of state and Britain is a symbolic unifier, supposedly. Some people don't like it, but that's what it is.
American democracy is another matter. We don't have a symbolic figure like that. So the volatility alone makes I think the situation in the United States a lot more rocky than it is in Britain.
SMERCONISH: Okay, I recognize that you don't appreciate the question itself, which is fine. But it sounds to me like you're saying if you had to answer it, you'd be saying more secure as the monarchy than American democracy.
SMERCONISH: What if I had asked about democracy in England, the United Kingdom --
SMERCONISH: -- generally, as compared to the United States? Do you have the same level of concern that you expressed to President Biden, about democracy overseas?
WILENTZ: Absolutely. I think it's systemic. It's throughout the western democracies. There's this problem, series of problems. But yes, I mean, if you take it down to the level of what's going on, it's ironic that indeed, the Queen should die right at the moment when there's a great transition to a new prime minister in Britain.
And the new prime minister is a very polarizing figure, and we're British democracy is going to be going post-Brexit is just as a, you know, chancy a question is where the United States is going post- Trump.
SMERCONISH: I watched the, I think, it's called Council of Ascension this morning in all of these, these ongoing pomp and circumstances surrounding her death and his upcoming coronation. The point I wanted to make professor is this, standing in the front row, my gosh, there were like six or seven former Prime Minister's which was a reminder to me of the tumult and the turnover that they've experienced.
WILENTZ: Yes, I mean, she reigned for a very, very long time. So unusual. I mean, I suppose victory, we could say something of the same thing that a lot of Prime Ministers have come and gone and that's what the monarchy is all about, to serve as a kind of stabilizing force.
The United States is more of an idea. You know, we have an idea of democracy. That's what holds us together, not a figurehead, not a person age, not a monarch, but an idea of democracy. And the problem in the United States, I think, is that idea has come under assault. The very idea of truth is coming to a result.
But certainly, the idea that we all share certain common democratic ideals, that has really been battered over the last, what, 10, 15 years, certainly over the last five years. And that's what makes the situation in America so dangerous, because as long as we have that idea in common well, then I think we can get through a great deal we always have. But when that idea is being challenged as it was in the 1850s and 60s, as it was in the 1930s, then I think we're in real trouble.
SMERCONISH: Finally, question, the President spoke in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia about 10 days ago. Do you think that speech, obviously, you would have paid attention to it? Was that an outgrowth of the warning that you and colleagues delivered to President Biden?
WILENTZ: I don't know. I don't want to talk about that meeting, in particular, I can't do so. But I think that the President's been talking along these lines for a while. I mean, it goes back to his inauguration actually after January 6. So I think that that's been a theme that's been present throughout his presidency. But at the moment, I think it's come to the fore, in part because he managed to get his, you know, his program through.
It's a moment now to reflect on the larger issues. It's also an election year leading into the midterms. So I think that, you know, and things have certainly changed since he took office. But I think this has been a theme throughout so that whatever we had to say to him, I think was, you know, just reinforcing or just reflecting on things that have been happening all along.
SMERCONISH: Do not let the nature of my trick question stop you from voting today, Professor, and thank you for coming back.
WILENTZ: Very good. Thanks to see you. Bye.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. Let's see what you're saying via social media, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, all the outlets. What do we got? Democracy -- I guess is the answer to which is more secure. Despite its potential for modern day good and symbolism for stability, cancel culture will ultimately subsume the monarchy. Wow, interesting observation. Don't believe me? Check the Twitter bashing within hours of the Queen passing away.
Yes, some of that was horrible. We've lost our humanity when we can't even have one day to mourn. Well, beta testing. Let me just say this, don't go believing that a snapshot of the Twitter mob. And yet of course, I'm responding to the Twitter mob each and every Saturday, aren't I, is a reflection of society at large because God help us if the people who were in such poor taste saying things about the Queen upon her passing are representative of the whole lot, and I don't think they are.
I want to remind you, go to smerconish.com, my website right now and answer this week's poll question. Can't wait to see the result of this. I have no idea how it's going to turn out. Which is more secure. You heard Professor Wilentz say, he thinks there's more volatility in American democracy than the British monarchy. I'm asking you which one is more secure.
Up ahead, King Charles is finally in charge at age 73. But what does the future hold for his heir William, who's now Prince of Wales. I'm about to ask Princess Diana's Chief of Staff and private secretary Patrick Jephson. And in her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth had a wide variety of meetings with 13 U.S. presidents dancing, attending church at a baseball game. She even rode horses with President Reagan. Did she ever lead on who her favorites were?
SMERCONISH: You're looking at live pictures of members of the royal family. They've just returned from church at Balmoral. Now obviously reviewing the flowers that have been left by members of the public who are grieving over the loss of Queen Elizabeth.
We're back with CNN's special coverage. Soon King Charles III will hold audiences at Buckingham Palace with religious and political leaders including the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss. We'll bring that when it happens.
But first, what's the future of the British crown? Earlier Charles III was proclaimed the new monarch of the United Kingdom, its first new leader since the second Elizabethan age began in 1952. This week the 73-year-old addressed Great Britain and the world for the first time since his mother's passing. In the king's inaugural speech Charles conferred new titles on Prince William and Kate Middleton while also and expressing his love for his son-in-law -- for his son Prince Harry and daughter-in-law, pardon me, Meghan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING CHARLES III, UNITED KINGDOM: As my heir, William now assumes the Scottish titles which have meant so much to me. I am proud to create him Prince of Wales. With Katherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the center ground where vital help can be given. I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Now that Charles is king, what does this mean for Prince William and where does the future of the monarchy go from here? Joining me now to talk about all the above is Patrick Jephson. You'll remember he was Princess Diana's private secretary and chief of staff. He served the princess for eight years.
He's also the author of the books "Shadows of a Princess" and "The Meghan Factor," and this recent piece just published in "The Daily Mail," "Mystique, aura and majesty radiated from Her Majesty like an electric force field." Actually, Patrick, let's begin with that. The piece that you wrote talks about you being summoned to meet with her majesty.
Can you quickly tell that story?
PATRICK JEPHSON, PRINCESS DIANA'S PRIVATE SECRETARY AND CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, Michael. The first experience I had of walking across that daunting fore court behind me here was while I was going for an interview to be equerry, that's military aide to Princess Diana.
Well, I had been summoned from my service in the Royal Navy frigate in the north Atlantic, suddenly finding myself in front of the most famous landmark in the country, one of the most famous in the world. And I was about to be admitted to this chance circle, I suppose, of people who have had the honor and the privilege to serve her majesty really closely.
SMERCONISH: I'm wondering how the passing of the queen might impact the relationship of the boys. What thoughts do you have on that?
JEPHSON: It changes their lives, certainly William's life very significantly. As you heard, the new king has created William, his heir, Prince of Wales. That means in simple terms that he is next up. God forbid if anything happened to the new king, William would become king as quickly as Charles did when his mother passed.
So, this is a shifting of the perspective. The British constitutional system has delivered a replacement head of state in William and his work now is to prepare for that day may it be far off when he in turn assumes the throne.
In a sense, it underlines the diverging paths between William and his younger brother Harry. They used to be so close. And I knew them when they were still small boys. And now it seems they are set on further and further distant paths ahead.
It's significant that Prince Charles said -- sorry, the king said, that William is his heir. Harry is building his life overseas. The ship of state is sailing on but Harry and Meghan seems to have gotten their own boat and gone off to their own desert island. The ship of state isn't waiting for them.
SMERCONISH: But, you know, Patrick, we have all grieved. We have all grieved loss. Sometimes it's a unifier. Maybe it's an opportunity for the brothers to the extent there's a schism between them to put it back together.
JEPHSON: We would hope so, Michael. Certainly grief can have a unifying effect, even on the most fractured family, but the signs are not good. Harry arrived after everybody else at Balmoral, when the queen passed. And he left first.
So, we read that he also had to make his own way there, made his own arrangements for travel. The signs are that the distance between Harry and the rest of his family at the moment is about as far as it could be. And it doesn't look like it's going to get any better in the near term with we're promised his own memoirs due to come out in a book before the end of the year.
SMERCONISH: Is there a lot of pressure now brought to bear on Meghan, beyond that which already existed because the eyes of the world will be scrutinizing every step that she takes during the course of the next 10 days?
JEPHSON: Well, it's a wonderful piece of good fortune, probably, that Harry and Meghan were already in England when the queen entered her final illness. They had a successful visit to Manchester, to Dusseldorf, and their last engagement in London was overshadowed by the queen's death.
There will be many question marks, I think, about her participation in the events that now lie ahead, particularly the state funeral next Monday. You'll remember at the queen's platinum jubilee, service of Thanksgiving, Harry and Meghan were consigned to the pews along with the junior members of the royal family. They weren't with the royal A team. It will be interested to see where they are seated for the funeral.
It's a shame that we are concerned with such details at a time of such momentous constitutional importance. Listening to your earlier conversation there, Michael, it is -- it is, I think, if you ask any of the people behind me, these crowds around the palace, yes, they're here for the new king and to give gratitude for the queen who is no longer with us. But above all, their presence signals the strength of the British system in which continuity has meant that one head of state has been replaced by another without even a ripple.
SMERCONISH: I hope you're right. Patrick Jephson, thank you as always.
JEPHSON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, Queen Elizabeth met with 13 of the 14 sitting U.S. presidents during her reign. So what were their relationships like with this -- what were her relationships like with this diverse array of leaders of a country that had revolted against her monarchy?
And did she have a favorite? Final reminder, go to Smerconish.com and make sure you're voting on this week's poll question. Register for the newsletter, by the way, while you're there. Which do you think is more secure, American democracy or the British monarchy?
SMERCONISH: Over the course of her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth met with 13 sitting American presidents. That's not only a record that will likely never be broken but as Peter Baker put it in "The New York Times" it was surely a test of diplomatic fortitude.
From Harry Truman, who she met before she was crowned, to Joe Biden who visited her last year, think of the different personalities of leaders that she encountered from the upstart nation that had broken free of hers. She went to church with Dwight D. Eisenhower, later sent him a recipe, danced with Gerald Ford, rode horses with Ronald Reagan, went to a Baltimore Orioles game with George Herbert Walker Bush. After she stopped traveling, the presidents went to visit her.
The Obamas gave her an iPod preloaded with photos and videos of a 2007 visit to D.C., also had some show tunes. She had tea with Donald and Melania Trump. The only president she never met was LBJ that's because of tensions over the war in Vietnam. So, how did she navigate all of that?
Joining me now is Alvin Felzenberg. He's a presidential historian and former lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication. His books include "The Leaders We Deserved and a Few We Didn't: Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game." You know, Al, it occurs to me the school where you taught at Penn, named for a United States ambassador to the court at Saint James.
ALVIN FELZENBERG, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN/AUTHOR, "THE LEADERS WE DESERVED": Yes, a very hard-working one and a very respected one in the U.K. And I point out that when he retired he came back to the United States, he had the pleasure and the honor of welcoming the queen to his California estate at Sunnylands and people tell me at least one of the California presidents that she knew was at some of those receptions. Ford, Reagan and Nixon were all in California at the same time. So love to have been a fly on the wall if that was true.
SMERCONISH: Do you think she had a favorite?
FELZENBERG: Very revered at best. Well, she never said. But we can tell by the body language. We can tell by how she related to them.
Her first sitting president was Dwight Eisenhower who you mentioned. And in the photographs we can tell a lot. I mean, she knew him as an adolescent growing up. He was a presence in England for the latter years of war.
And when he came to the White House, there's a wonderful photograph of the two of them at a dinner where she is bejeweled and beautiful and a new queen, great curiosity about her. He's looking at her with great pride, a grandfather would take when a young granddaughter was beginning to blossom. And you can see that he's just beaming with pride.
And on his -- on his attire is a sash carrying the medal of the Order of Merit, which is the highest honor an American can attain. She remembered that. Her father had given it to him.
They went to a picnic together at Balmoral. He cooked for her. She cooked for him. As you said she sent him a recipe on how to make the scones he such praised and asked for.
SMERCONISH: I remember --
FELZENBERG: Moving along -- SMERCONISH: I remember some controversy --
SMERCONISH: -- surrounding Nancy Reagan going to Charles and Diana's wedding. And I also remember --
SMERCONISH: -- the perception of there being a real bond between Reagan and her majesty, perhaps over horses. You know, they had that in common.
FELZENBERG: Yes. Yes. I want to talk about the Reagans and both the queen and the current king. You mentioned this. When the current king was Prince of Wales, he took a tour of the United States and several of the commonwealth countries.
And he stopped at the White House, Richard Nixon honored him. Some great photographs of the Nixons and the queen. Not at that visit, but he went to Buckingham Palace with the first lady, Pat Nixon, later on.
Nixon was supposed to be a man of great awkwardness and unease in public and sometimes retiring and shy. This is the most relaxed photograph you'll ever see of Richard Nixon. The only rivals --
SMERCONISH: Yes, we're showing it.
FELZENBERG: -- when he danced with his wife -- when he danced with Pat at the daughter's wedding. But you see Nixon just beaming. Why? It was a reunion.
I mean, Eisenhower was president, first sitting president she met. But Nixon was her guy. He was more of a contemporary to her.
There was a photograph of the two of them in an open Cadillac (INAUDIBLE) going down Connecticut Avenue with crowds and crowds of well wishers. Well, the prince at that time went out to California. He met several of the people in Hollywood whose movies he had seen as a teenager and he met the Reagans. And somehow he bonded with Nancy Reagan, sat with her at a dinner. They began quite a long friendship.
He wrote her kind of letters from the palace and elsewhere that an American teenager or an American young man would write to a favorite aunt. Not always things you would tell your parents, but things he wanted to get off his chest and tell her.
And so when she went to the -- when she went to the wedding she did not have a very good press unfortunately. And we had just been through the period of the controversies about designer clothes and China and all the other nonsense.
The people were saying, why is she going to all these events? Is she thinking she's a monarch herself? Is she pretentious? The answer is she was invited to all the grooms' receptions, all the parties are his friends, all the parties are just in current relations. And she was with relatives. She was with the family. She was with the friends.
She wasn't pushing herself on anyone. She wasn't running for monarch. Well -- you mentioned Ronald Reagan -- Ronald Reagan --
SMERCONISH: Al -- Al, it's a book.
You got to write the book. I'm out of time, but you have got to write another book exploring this whole subject and covering the relationships that she had with all of them. I really appreciate your time and expertise.
FELZENBERG: One line Ronald Reagan said he never saw a person master of a horse the way the queen took hold of that animal. One of his great lines.
SMERCONISH: Wow. It is a great line. Thank you, Al. Appreciate it.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets, YouTube, Facebook comments. And are you ready for the result of the poll question? Have you voted yet? Go to Smerconish.com, tell me which is more secure, American democracy or the British monarchy?
SMERCONISH: OK. Time to see how you responded to the poll question this week at Smerconish.com. Which is more secure, American democracy or the British monarchy?
Here it is. Wow, pretty decisive. The monarchy with more than 20,000 votes cast. We'll call it 70/30. Holy smokes.
I read that as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, you know, a 70-year reign and the stability that she brought to the picture. I hope it's another 70 and it's as secure.
Social media reaction, what do we have?
Amazing and thought provoking poll question today. Oh, thank you, Dane. I am saddened by the results, though. Ask it again in six months and compare. I'd be curious. FYI, I answered democracy.
I feel better about democracy. Wishful thinking maybe. I see all that polling data that I shared with all of you and it frightens me but I'd like to think that there's still more that unites us than divides us, despite a lot of the headlines. Frankly, I think we give undue attention to a lot of the divisiveness without recognizing that on fundamental issues there's still large agreement among us.
Thank you for watching. I'll see you next week.