ERII and Prince Philip, gift to bv 1991.jpg

A photo given as a gift to Benedicte Valentiner following the 1991 visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

Reflection rather than grief was my reaction when Queen Elizabeth II died, perhaps because at 96, one should be permitted to quietly take off. I do grieve for the end of an extraordinary era that also covers my own life, and I treasure even more now the four days out of Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years of service and duty when it was my honor to serve her.

During the May 1991 State Visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to the White House of President George H.W. Bush, they stayed four days at Blair House. That’s the president’s guest house, which I managed for more than 13 years.

I was surprised that the Queen was much younger looking than her photos, with beautiful and flawless skin. Throughout the visit, she was dressed charmingly in lovely colors and prints. I often found her quietly waiting in the front hall for her next event, entirely resting in herself.

Benedicte Valentiner, general manager of Blair House for four U.S. presidents, is the author of Bedtime and Other Stories from The President’s Guest House. She lives in Santa Fe.

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