Alistair Beaton: Memo from CIA - nod and smile and on no account slap Liz on the rump

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To: The Chief of Staff, The Oval Office.

From: The Director, Central Intelligence Agency.

Dear Andy Card

Here are some briefing notes for the President and the First Lady in preparation for their upcoming sojourn with the British Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, London, England. I hear you're going along. Brave guy.


British royals are not democratically elected, but operate instead on the hereditary principle, so the President should feel pretty much at home with them. They are mostly Germans, but speak comprehensible English (apart from Prince Charles). Collectively, they are known as the House of Windsor, a title chosen for them by the British Tourist Board. They have a few palaces and some nice stuff on the walls, so they're rich, but not real rich, not rich like say a shareholder in Halliburton.

Buckingham Palace

The Queen's London home. Pretty basic. Think Holiday Inn without the Jacuzzis. Plenty of servants, most of them male. Royal tradition dictates they serve their masters in whatever way desired, so if the President drops his towel in the shower, he should not ring for a valet to come and pick it up, as this could lead to a serious misunderstanding.


For formal occasions, hand-tooled cowboy boots, bomber jackets and Stetsons are best avoided, but the President can relax in the knowledge that he'll be better turned out than any members of the Royal Family. Be aware that at outdoor gatherings he may find himself approached by a dumpy woman wearing a headscarf, an oiled jacket and a plaid skirt. On no account is this person to be shot, as she is probably the Queen of England (or possibly her daughter).

The Queen

The Queen is Britain's number one royal, but wears the kind of hats that even Laura wouldn't be seen dead in. She only gets her crown out on big-deal occasions, like coronations, so the best way to recognise her when going into a room is to look for the small grumpy one with the dangling spectacles. On no account is she to be called Liz, or even Elizabeth. She is always "Your Majesty". Like most Brits, she hates to be touched, so tell the President not to slap her on the rump and say: "Howya doin', girl?" like he did with Mrs Putin. If the Queen engages the President in conversation, he should nod and pretend that it makes sense. Her conversation is quite limited, so the President should cope quite well.

Prince Philip

Also known as the Duke of Edinburgh. (He's Greek, not Scottish.) Husband of the Queen and a sort of British good ol' boy. The President can safely tell his favourite jokes about fags, spics and towel-heads: Philip will love 'em! To ingratiate himself, the President should praise the late Princess Diana. (NB: "Top totty" is a British term of admiration for beautiful women.)

Prince Charles

In theory, heir to the throne, but nobody in Britain thinks he's going to be King. He says some pretty weird things. My advice is: smile and nod.

Other royals

None worth knowing, except maybe Prince William, who's a looker, and has a better chance than Charles of becoming King. Doesn't have much conversation, but good for a photo-opp.

Security at Buckingham Palace

Our secret servicemen should try to avoid frisking the Queen. We have conducted enquiries into her background and have concluded that she is unlikely to have high explosives strapped to her body. When checking for unexploded devices our secret servicemen must be warned that they may come across a Camilla Parker Bowles, also known in royal circles as Old Stick-in-Waiting. She does not pose a security threat; she's merely being kept in hiding because nobody can stand the sight of her.

Dining Etiquette

The banquets can get quite fancy. Tell the President the steak knife is on the right. Apart from that, it's mostly nursery food. Breakfast can be disgusting. The good news: there's a McDonald's five minutes' walk away.

Have a great trip!

Best wishes,

George Tenet, CIA