Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom has a connection to those who take up the office of President of the United States of America. Those who sit in the Oval Office of the White House as President of the United States use the Resolute desk given by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880.
The desk was made of timbers from the British ship, Resolute. It also contains Moroccan leather. The resolute desk used by recent presidents does not look exactly as it did when it was gifted to President Hayes by Her Majesty. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent many of his years in the White House in a wheelchair due to his suffering from polio.
As a result, he had an alteration made to the desk. President Roosevelt had a door put in with the presidential seal be put in to hide his leg braces. He sadly passed away before it was completed.
All American presidents have used the Resolute desk – with the exception of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford. Some have chosen to use the desk in their private study while the others use it in the Oval Office.
It was First Lady Jackie Kennedy who, in 1961, brought the desk in the Oval Office for President Kennedy to use. President and Mrs Kennedy’s son, John F. Kennedy Jr was famously photographed peeking out from the door of the desk as his father worked.
After President Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas, Lydon B. Johnson became President of the United States. President Johnson granted the Kennedy Presidential Library permission to use the desk in a travelling exhibition. Next, it was on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. However, President Jimmy Carter brought it back to use in the Oval Office. It has since been used by Presidents Reagan, Bush (41), Clinton, Bush (43), and Obama. It is now expected that President Trump will continue the use as those before him.
The Resolute desk has an inscription on the brass plate of the desk that says:
H.M.S. RESOLUTE forming part of the expedition sent in search of SIR JOHN FRANKLIN IN 1852, was abandoned (74° 41′ N Longitude 101° 22′ W) in latitude 74 degrees 41 minutes N longitude 101 degrees 22 minutes W on 15th May 1854. She was discovered and extricated in September 1855 in latitude 67 degrees N by Captain Buddington of the United States Whaler GEORGE HENRY.
The ship was purchased, fitted out and sent to England as a gift to HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA by the PRESIDENT AND PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES as a token of goodwill & friendship. This table was made from her timbers when she was broken up and is presented by the QUEEN OF GREAT BRITAIN to the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the RESOLUTE.
It is often believed that there is an exact copy of the Resolute desk in Buckingham Palace or the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth; however, that is not the case. The desks are somewhat similar, but they are not twins.