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Who Was the First British Monarch to Visit the United States?

Europe was on the cusp of war in June 1939, and the political winds in the United States skewed toward isolationism, with some anti-British sentiment in the country. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew that America would soon need strong allies, so he arranged for Britain’s King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, to visit, as a stop off from their royal tour of Canada. George VI would become the first reigning British monarch to set foot on American soil. The four-day visit included sightseeing, a formal state dinner, and the usual royal pomp and circumstance. But the tour's best-known event was an informal picnic at FDR’s Hyde Park estate, where the king enjoyed his first-ever hot dog, served on a paper plate and accompanied by a beer.

A sandwich fit for a king:

  • "KING TRIES HOT DOG AND ASKS FOR MORE" was the excited headline in the New York Times. At the picnic, the royals had the chance to meet the Roosevelts’ friends and neighbors in a laid-back atmosphere.

  • A bit flummoxed, the queen reportedly asked how to eat her hot dog. "Very simple," FDR responded. "Push it into your mouth and keep pushing it until it is all gone." She opted for a knife and fork instead.

  • King George VI's visit became a key component in the development of stronger political ties between the two countries.

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