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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Queen Elizabeth's Visit Sends U.S. Into a Tizzy

Jacqueline Bowens knows how to decipher the intricacies of life or death trauma, but the directives from Buckingham Palace have her flummoxed.

"'Day Dress' for the women," frets the Children's National Medical Center vice president. "We're thinking that's business attire."

"Or are we supposed to wear dresses?" worries Terry Orzechowski, the Washington hospital's director of volunteer services. "Can women wear pants to meet the queen?"

"Have you ever seen a woman wearing pants and meeting the queen?" Bowens asks.

Queen Elizabeth II was to arrive in Richmond on Thursday afternoon aboard her private charter, accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip. On Sunday, they will head to Washington with their entourage of 35 -- a group that will not include a private chef but does have dressers and hairdressers.

Mastering the royals' esoterica is sending American staffs from Richmond to Washington to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center into a fear-tinged tizzy. E-mails are pinging back and forth between the queen's page and the director of the Virginia governor's mansion. In the last week alone, 300,000 people have clicked on a special Virginia web site, seeking info about the arrival of Her Majesty. At NASA, when Goddard officials offered a chance for 200 employees to simply sit in an auditorium with the queen, 900 responses immediately flooded back.

The United States may have won the Revolutionary War, unpowdered its wigs and freed itself from monarchical conventions. But that has not kept Bowens from enduring two months of meetings and walk-throughs. She has created for hospital staff a six- to eight-page "protocol paper" for the royal visit, set to last 40 minutes, at most. For those more actively involved in the visit, there is "a full notebook."

So, will the hospital serve the queen tea -- or a juice box? (Probably tea, Bowens says: "Lipton works for us," but they expect to offer British and green teas, too.) Is it proper to offer the queen hand-sanitizer before she meets kids in the cardiac unit? (No need, Bowens says. The playroom she's visiting is not susceptible to infection.)

Similar vapors are evident in Richmond, where Virginia's first lady, Anne Holton, will host the queen, and 30,000 people are expected to jam into a square that holds 13,000.

"Hats are a big topic -- lots of questions about hats," says Amy Bridge, director of the governor's mansion. "The first lady did a lot of thinking and lot of consultation about that."

The right look, the right greeting, the right tone and atmosphere -- it's all such an obsession that the U.S. State Department has appointed someone to work with Bridge on royal protocol. Buckingham Palace flew in about 15 others -- including the queen's personal assistant and Buckingham Palace's deputy master of the household -- for consultations.

To further her aristocratic knowledge base, Bridge has immersed herself in "Windsor Castle: A Royal Year," a PBS documentary that gives a peek into life at the palace. For example, the queen's dining table is such a vast expanse that simply setting the table requires a servant to don special socks, climb aboard and skate the candlesticks and centerpieces toward the middle.

"That's been a little intimidating to watch," says Bridge. The governor's dining table can seat a prodigious 28. But compared with the castle's capacities? "Well," Bridge says modestly, "ours is nothing."

The royals are coming to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, Virginia, and the rest of their visit will "celebrate the exploration of new frontiers -- to push the boundaries of our worlds and knowledge. A common spirit from the settlers of 1607 to the astronauts of 2007," as one of the queen's spokesmen described it.

She'll make a detour, midtrip, to Kentucky and pop into the Derby. No word on whether she'll explore any new frontiers by betting the ponies: "I couldn't possibly speculate as to whether Her Majesty will have a flutter at the big race," says a not-to-be-identified, and somewhat horrified, spokesman.

Apparently, Buckingham Palace isn't so different from official Washington -- all the spokespeople insist on anonymity, though their royal reasons sound more gracious than Capitol Hill's.

Palace protocol requires that spokespeople remain unidentified because "our stars don't rise higher than those we speak on behalf of."