Buckingham Palace showed itself to be the supreme casting director yesterday. Inviting Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Andrews to be invested as dames on the same day, it could be sure that at least one of the American-based British acting legends would provide the drama.
Predictably, it was Dame Elizabeth who obliged. Health problems forced her to arrive in a wheelchair. Emotional problems forced her to emerge from the palace saying how she still missed one of her late husbands, Richard Burton, and how she had wished he had been there with her.
Julie Andrews played to type: sedate, unemotional and jolly. Music from one of her best-known films, Mary Poppins, was played by the Grenadier Guards during her investiture. It lacked only Dick Van Dyke at the palace gates, with his appalling Cockney accent from the film, to turn the palace into a place that every film-going American would recognise.
Dame Elizabeth, 68, who has been plagued by health problems, was allowed to enter the palace through a side door so she could use a lift to the ballroom where the investiture took place.
Earlier, she and Julie Andrews, 64, waved at waiting fans as they left the Dorchester hotel in central London, where they were staying.Dame Julie, the star of The Sound of Music, said she was "honoured and thrilled".
Dame Elizabeth said the ceremony was her crowning moment and she wished she could have shared it with Burton, the love of her life. "I miss him so much," she said. "I wish he was here. I came to Buckingham Palace once before, years ago, with Richard, when he received the OBE."
Dame Julie, who also received the insignia of a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, said: "This is the greatest honour of my life. I didn't think I was eligible as I've lived in America for such a long time, but I've always felt I've taken my Britishness with me." She said the Queen had told her it was a great pleasure to be giving her the honour.
"I have met the Queen before," she added. "I have a wonderful photograph of when I was 12 and performing at the London Coliseum. It was in 1948 and the show was called Starlight Roof and Princess Elizabeth, as she was then, came to see it." Even Elizabeth Taylor couldn't trump that.