Straining to Catch a Glimpse of the Queen


With a blur of her white-and-black suit and black-and-white hat with a large flower, the queen disappeared into a waiting black SUV. Her motorcade drove a half block and into the White House's north entrance.

Later, as the crowd dispersed, the three women reflected on why they came.

"It's part of the fun of living in Washington, D.C.," said Wilcox.

With the U.S. and Britain embroiled in the war in Iraq -- and the queen's grandson, Harry, deploying to Iraq -- Wilcox suggested a few minutes of pomp and ceremony are a welcome change. "It's a distraction," she said.

Nodding in agreement, Wilkes explained that Americans have a curiosity about England's royal family.

"I think we fell in love with Princess Diana," she said. "The whole princess happily ever after story."

Wilcox said British actress Helen Mirren's Oscar-winning performance in "The Queen" also gave her a new perspective on the monarch.

"She's a woman who knows what she's doing, and she's not going to be pushed around by the media or anybody."

With the queen safely inside the White House gate, the Secret Service removed the barrier and opened up Pennsylvania Avenue. Tourists strolled down the street of the White House, lined with British, American and D.C. flags.

Queen Is a 'Big Deal'

Michael and Wendy Higman of Sussex, England, posed in front of Blair House for a picture.

"She's a very big deal for people of our generation," said Michael, who said he and his wife didn't know that the queen would be in town when they booked their ticket to Washington D.C. to visit their grandchildren. "People in England love her. She's our queen," said Wendy.

Canadians Robert and Louise Nietrzeba of Winnipeg, Manitoba, tried to catch a glimpse of the queen from the south lawn. But without a ticket, they couldn't see much, let alone royalty.

Snapping pictures outside the gate of the White House, Robert said, "She's come to visit Canada a few times," he said. "It's a big deal. People go out and see her."

However, even though Canada is a commonwealth country that still views the queen as the symbolic head of state, Nietrzeba said nobody takes the monarchy too seriously.

"The ordinary daily talk is of our own affairs, own own prime minister and how the government is running," he said. "We really don't have much to do anymore with England so it's nice to come out and see them when they come."

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