by Spencer Howard
As the world mourns the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, we have been asked if Herbert Hoover ever met the Queen. The answer is yes, in 1957. Despite being from different eras – Hoover was 52 years older than Elizabeth, and she was just six years old when he left the White House – their paths eventually crossed.
In 1957 Queen Elizabeth visited Canada and the United States, her first formal visit after ascending the throne. In Canada, she became the first reigning monarch to open a session of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. It would be the only parliament formally opened by the Queen herself, rather than the Governor General.
On October 17, 1957, the Queen traveled south of the border. First, she visited Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia, which had recently celebrated the 350th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America. The Queen and Prince Philip then stayed for four days at the White House, where President Eisenhower and his wife Mamie hosted a State Dinner and other formal events for the royals. The Eisenhowers also took them to an American college football game (the University of Maryland defeated North Carolina 21-7) and to visit that new modern American institution, a supermarket.
On October 21, the Queen and her party left for New York City. The Queen was eager to see the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty, so she traveled by train to Staten Island and took the Staten Island Ferry across the harbor. The Queen was met with a motorcade and a ticker-tape parade as she traveled down Fifth Avenue, later spoke at the United Nations, and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building.
The Mayor of New York, Robert Wagner, arranged a formal luncheon for the Queen in the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. It was a magnificent affair with more than 1800 invited guests. The menu included lobster bisque Waldorf with brandy, squab chicken Manhattan with wild rice and tiny green peas, and delices of raspberries a la royale. The wines were a Johannisberg Riesling and a 1948 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour cabernet.
At the top of the guest list was 83-year-old former President Herbert Hoover. The head table on the dais sat 18 guests, with the Queen in the middle; Mayor Wagner sat next to her on her left, and Hoover was seated on her right. We do not know what Hoover and the Queen chatted about over their meal – he left no notes or reminiscences – but one of his friends wrote to him the next day, “We saw you clearly at the Queen’s luncheon and she seemed to enjoy what you said to her.”