A smiling Queen welcomes Donald Trump for lunch at Buckingham Palace with other senior royals including her son Charles and grandson Harry
Determined not to put a foot wrong in front of the Queen, Donald Trump parked his gargantuan helicopter on the Palace lawn yesterday and emerged on his very best behaviour.
He even thanked the monarch for the weather. It was all going so well….
But even the best-behaved guests can have the odd moment of forgetfulness. Introduced to a fine pewter equestrian statue by the Queen, the President drew a blank. Whereupon the First Lady, Melania Trump, gently reminded him that he himself had given it to the Queen last year.
At which point there were gales of laughter, led by the monarch. The Queen was highly amused as Mr Trump threw up his arms in mock despair.
The mood might have been ugly in the streets outside. Protesters could be heard from within the Palace last night and the Trumps had to use a helicopter for a two-mile journey across the capital.
But it was all smiles and sentimentality inside the Buckingham Palace walls, culminating in last night’s warm banquet toasts to a historic friendship. Besides, the only person with as many gold plates as Mr Trump is the Queen.
The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (KTRHA), the ceremonial saluting battery of Her Majesty’s Household Division, fired a 41-gun Royal Salute from Green Park to welcome US President Donald Trump to London
Mr Trump speaks to the soldiers who sweltered in bearskins worn by Britain’s Grenadier Guards at all times of the year
We also had an answer to the question of what on earth the President and monarch might have in common – beyond both having Scottish mothers.
Yesterday, we learned that they have the same taste in art.
Donald and Melania Trump had just been welcomed and lunched when the Queen escorted them through to a special Buckingham Palace display of UK/US artefacts laid out in the Picture Gallery.
It was immediately obvious that Mr Trump was feeling nervous. Not only did he say very little but he appeared positively shy.
The Queen was all smiles as she greeted Donald Trump this morning on his first official state visit to the UK – though Robin noted that Donald would have been better doing a complete turn to face her rather than being caught in ‘this half no where land of a stance’
The Queen was doing most of the talking as they viewed a display of various Scottish artefacts – ‘That’s my tartan,’ Mr Trump murmured (quite correctly) – and souvenirs of state visits to America. And then the President’s eye was drawn away from the exhibition and up to the painting above.
He was transfixed by Rembrandt’s 1633 work The Shipbuilder And His Wife, and wanted to know more. By happy coincidence, he had hit upon what happens to be the Queen’s favourite picture across the entire Palace.
She may have an unrivalled collection of family portraits but, as the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures has acknowledged, her best-loved piece is this intense study of a 17th century Dutch couple. The director of the Royal Collection, Tim Knox, produced a potted history for Mr Trump.
The Queen, President Trump and Melania laugh as Prince Charles and his wife Camilla chat on the Buckingham Palace stairs
Despite all the political grandstanding in advance, the success of a state visit boils down to the interaction between visitor and host. And this one can be characterised by two factors: Mr Trump’s obvious reverence for the Queen and her obvious determination to keep the oft-quoted ‘special relationship’ in good shape.
Mr Trump had arrived with a bang. Every state visitor is welcomed by a 41-gun salute at both the Tower and in Green Park. Because of a backlog of gun salutes from the 66th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation the day before (there are no gun salutes on a Sunday), the total number of rounds fired was an ear-splitting 185 – 41 each for President and monarch in the Park, 41 for Mr Trump and 62 for the Queen at the Tower. Perhaps that went some way to making up for the absence of the traditional carriage procession down The Mall.
Though this is part of the ritual for most state visitors, US security officials have never allowed an American president to travel in this way in modern times.
So, the Palace lawn became a huge helipad. Having flown overnight to Stansted, Mr Trump travelled first to the US Ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park to ‘freshen up’. He then climbed aboard his personal helicopter, Marine One, for the quick hop across London. His aides and bag-carriers flew ahead in an identical monster, Nighthawk Two, and parked on a patch of grass which, until last week, had been covered by the royal tea tent for the Queen’s garden parties.
U.S. President Donald Trump inspects an honour guard during a welcome ceremony in the garden of Buckingham Palace today
Then came The Donald himself. Once the rotors of Marine One no longer represented a threat to either royal hats or presidential quiffs, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall emerged from the Bow Room and walked down to greet the President. The Queen was waiting on the West Terrace in a muted jade coat and pleated silk dress by Stewart Parvin. It was warm smiles as the two heads of state met and shook hands. Mr Trump did not bow – nor, as an equal and as a US citizen, was he expected to – but, for a nanosecond, it appeared as if he might kiss the Queen’s hand.
The royal party moved inside the Palace and closed the doors. The sash windows on the first floor opened – most unusually. Out on to the balcony stepped members of the presidential party for the perfect grandstand view, led by Mr Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. The locals, including the Dukes of York, Sussex, Kent and Gloucester, chose to stay inside.
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania (left) are pictured at Clarence House in London to take tea with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall
President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, right, and Queen Elizabeth II, walk in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace, Monday, June 3, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Below, the main party re-emerged. Charles and President, in their blue lounge suits, walked down the steps to inspect the Guard of Honour and were almost eclipsed by the dazzling scarlet of the Grenadier Guards.
Normally, the inspection is a little more than a brisk stroll and cursory nod. Not on this occasion. Mr Trump often enjoys a chat with the troops. The tallest soldier on parade, Guardsman Joshua Young-Hastings, from south London, had played American Football in the US before joining up. The President also met Missouri-born Guardsman Robert Spilling who served with the US 101st Airborne and enlisted in the British Army last year.
Keeping his distance: Prince Harry, circled, lurks in the background during the tour. His wife Meghan once described Mr Trump as ‘misogynistic’ and ‘divisive’
The Prince of Wales spared one guardsman an embarrassment. A medal had somehow fallen from his uniform so Charles picked it up and pinned it back on.
Troops inspected, anthems over, it was time for a lunch of salmon, duck and doughnuts (not all-bad – they came with fruit) and the exchange of gifts. The Queen gave Mr Trump a specially-bound first edition of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War and an E II R pen set, while the First Lady received an engraved silver box.
Other members of the Royal Family were deputed to escort the other guests. The Duke of Sussex was chatting to Ivanka Trump until she began to stray too close to the cameras whereupon he retreated.
The Queen, President Trump and the First Lady viewed this picture showing President Roosevelt with King George VI in 1939
The President and First Lady dropped in at Westminster Abbey for the customary wreath-laying at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior and then spent more time with Charles and Camilla over tea at Clarence House.
By now, the Palace staff were putting the finishing touches to the centrepiece of the visit, the state banquet in the Palace Ballroom. The seating plan was an unusual one. Opposition parties and the Speaker do not usually boycott a state banquet.
Nor does a state visitor often come to dinner at the Palace with a wife and four children plus a daughter-in-law and son-in-law in tow. For once, the away team were almost as well-represented as the home side.
And perhaps Mr Speaker may come to rue his decision, given his love of the limelight. While John Bercow sat at home, Lord Fowler, his counterpart in the Lords, was not only given a seat at the top end of the table but found himself sitting next to the First Lady of the United States.