How Obama became the queen’s ‘favourite US president’: Barack and daughters Malia and Sasha were once invited to a secret tea with Queen Elizabeth in London ... he also gifted her an iPod

Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama shared a special friendship. Photos: AFP, AP

In her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth met 13 US presidents, according to The Guardian. But there was one that she seems to have taken a special shine to.

In his book Kensington Palace: An Intimate Memoir from Queen Mary to Meghan Markle, author Tom Quinn wrote, “After meeting Barack Obama who she completely fell in love with – she has frequently asked her courtiers if they could arrange for him to come to Britain now he is no longer president.”
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh greet then US President Barack Obama after he and his wife Michelle arrived by helicopter outside Windsor Castle, west of London, in April 2016. Photo: AFP

Over their eight years spent in the White House, Barack and Michelle Obama visited Buckingham Palace three times.

The pair got off to a great start when Barack gave the queen a gift when he met her for the first time in April 2009, when he touched down in the UK for the G20 summit, per The Guardian.

Queen Elizabeth stands with then president and first lady of the United States Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, along with the Duke of Edinburgh, in the Oak Room at Windsor Castle ahead of a private lunch hosted by the queen. Photo: EPA

At the Inbound conference in Boston in September, Barack reminisced that his present for the queen was an eyebrow-raiser.

“When you meet with leaders, you exchange gifts. You never want to be out-gifted! I wanted her actually to be able to use the gift. She loved British Broadway show tunes, and the [new] iPod had just come out. I thought, let’s get an iPod and fill it with British show tunes. The British tabloids thought it was entirely inappropriate, but I think she used it quite a bit,” the former president said.

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It set the tone for a relationship that would transcend the rigid parameters of royal protocol.

Queen Elizabeth and then President Barack Obama toast during a state banquet in Buckingham Palace in London, in 2011. Photo: Reuters
Barack recalled another touching and revealing anecdote about the queen at the Inbound Conference. During his second year in office, his two daughters and his mother-in-law made a trip to London. There was no plan to visit the queen, but they unexpectedly received an invitation to tea at Buckingham Palace.
“And so, I’ve got Malia, who at that point is 11, Sasha who is eight, and my mother-in-law, who was a stay-at-home mum and a secretary for a bank – who lived on the south side of Chicago her whole life – sitting there with the queen of England. And then she insists that the girls take her golden carriage, which I guess she uses for jubilees, on a long drive through the palace grounds.”

Barack said the queen was genuine and gracious. “None of this was ever reported. It was just something that she did quietly,” the former president said.

Former US President Barack Obama speaks with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, in central London, in 2011. Photo: AFP

Writing in her book Becoming, Michelle recalled an intimate encounter with the queen during their final state visit to England in 2016. The plan was to fly by helicopter from the US ambassador’s residence in London to Windsor Castle, one of the queen’s residences. From there, Prince Philip and the queen were going to meet them on the estate, and then Philip would drive them all back to Buckingham Palace.

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This event was significant, not just because of the passengers of the car, but because this would have been one of the only times the Obamas drove without secret service agents, per The Times of India. As such, the journey was planned to the finest of details.
Then US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle pose with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during an audience at Buckingham Palace in London, in 2009. Photo: AP Photo

The queen, however, did not want to go with that well-made plan and asked Michelle if she would like to ride with her in her Land Rover.

Michelle wrote: “I froze, trying to remember if anyone had prepped me for this scenario, whether it was more polite to go along with it or to insist that Barack take his proper seat by her side. The queen immediately picked up on my hesitation. And was having none of it.”

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, then US President Barack Obama, then US First Lady Michelle Obama and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh watch a Guard of Honour at Buckingham Palace, in central London, in 2011. Photo: AFP

“‘Did they give you some rule about this?’ she said, dismissing all the fuss with a wave of her hand. ‘That’s rubbish. Sit wherever you want.’”

The close relationship between the monarch and the Obama family didn’t mean that the queen wouldn’t assert her own needs, however.

Then US President Barack Obama welcomes Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to the Winfield House for dinner in London, Britain, in 2011. Photo: Reuters

Former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said the queen once asked him at a state banquet to tell then-President Obama to leave because it was late and she wanted to go to bed, as per Newsweek.

Indeed, in a tribute to the queen filmed for the BBC, the 44th president confirmed the monarch was a straight-talker. “She was very mindful of her guests at Buckingham Palace not overstaying their welcome. She was looking at her watch and at some point said, ‘OK, it’s time to go,’” he laughingly recalled.

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Then US President Barack Obama sees off Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, as Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and then First Lady Michelle Obama follow after a reciprocal dinner at the Winfield House in London, in 2011. Photo: AFP

Upon hearing the news of the death of the queen, Barack and Michelle said, “Like so many, Michelle and I are grateful to have witnessed her majesty’s dedicated leadership and we are awed by her legacy of tireless, dignified public service. Our thoughts are with her family and the people of the United Kingdom at this difficult time.”

This article originally appeared on Insider
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  • Their friendship extended beyond diplomatic duties after they met for the first time with Prince Philip in 2009 during Barack’s presidency while he was in the UK for the G20 summit
  • The queen once invited Barack, his mum-in-law and his daughters Malia and Sasha for an unexpected tea at the London palace, but wasn’t afraid to tell guests when it was ‘time to go’