LONDON — President Trump finally had his most excellent state visit. He was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on Monday, beginning three days of feting and carefully calibrated diplomacy. The royals served lunch, showed off their old stuff, poured tea and hosted a lavish banquet with the good china. And nothing went wrong.
The British monarch and her retinue are very good at this, and this is why Britons keep them around. Her majesty and her family — known to insiders as “the Firm” — are highly skilled professionals in the deployment of soft power. They are players.
Trump won’t get to stay overnight at the palace (renovations were cited). And he didn’t get a golden carriage ride down the Mall (security risk). But he did land on the lawn at Buckingham Palace in Marine One. And how awesome is that? The lawn. No protesters.
The press naturally focused on the morning’s tweets. Trump complained about CNN and insulted London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling him a “stone cold loser” — and short.
But Trump always complains about CNN, and his hostile exchanges with Khan are part of a long-running, predictable squabble — and probably serve to stoke both men’s bases.
At the banquet on Monday night, Trump — in white tie and tails — called the queen “a great, great woman.”
He spoke briefly, praising British bravery and grit in World War II. There was nothing about Brexit or current British politics, but Trump made one reference to self-determination — a theme he has stressed when criticizing the European Union and cheering Britain for voting to leave.
As the queen rose to give a toast, Trump appeared to lightly touch her back with his left hand, as seen on the televised pool feed to reporters. Protocol dictates that one doesn’t touch the queen (though Michelle Obama famously did — and was forgiven).
In her speech, the queen said that “as we face the new challenges of the 21st century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together.”
She declared her confidence “that our common values and shared interests will continue to unite us” and concluded by inviting the room to toast the “continued friendship between our two nations.”
Hear! Hear! And the 170 guests did gulp. The palace served English and French wines, along with steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse, asparagus spears and chervil sauce, and new-season Windsor lamb with herb stuffing, spring vegetables and port sauce.
On Tuesday, things will get more political as Trump meets with Prime Minister Theresa May and holds a joint news conference. But Monday was all about the royal treatment. Trump attended the banquet along with first lady Melania Trump, four of his five children, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The president and first lady were greeted at satellite Stansted Airport by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — but not by May, who is being ousted over Brexit. This official state visit coincides with a furious contest to replace May. It is all a bit awkward. Not that the British will mention it, much.
At Buckingham Palace, the president appeared to enjoy himself immensely as he strode the ranks of the queen’s guards decked out in black bearskin hats and scarlet jackets.
There were two 41-gun salutes.
After lunch, the queen escorted the president and first lady into the palace picture gallery to see items of “historical interest” to the United States. One display, titled “A Tale of Two Georges: King George III and George Washington,” included a copy of the Declaration of Independence and an engraving of the first U.S. president.
Photographers caught a glimpse of Prince Harry at the gallery. Absent was Harry’s wife, Meghan, who just gave birth. Trump last week said Meghan Markle was “nasty” toward him during the 2016 campaign, before the actress became Duchess of Sussex.
The queen is at the center of this state visit. But, at 93, she appears to be allowing other senior royals to share in the hosting duties. Prince Andrew led the Trumps through Westminster Abbey, where they placed a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Warrior. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, hosted the Trumps for tea.
“The Queen and the entire Royal family have been fantastic,” Trump tweeted after his afternoon with them, adding: “Tremendous crowds of well wishers and people that love our Country. Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them.”
Actually, there were no tremendous crowds.
Britain is deeply anti-Trump. An Ipsos MORI poll last year found 19 percent of Brits had a favorable view of him, while 68 percent had an unfavorable view.
Some of that sentiment was visible Monday. Amnesty International unfurled banners from London bridges with the captions “Resist Trump,” “Resist Racism” and “Resist Sexism.”
But the major demonstration is scheduled for Tuesday, when of thousands of protesters are expected to pack London’s Trafalgar Square. A giant balloon depicting Trump as a diaper-clad baby is expected to take flight, and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is scheduled to address the crowds.
Khan, a Muslim and the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, has become the rhetorical leader of London’s resistance. The mayor vocally objected to “rolling out the red carpet” for Trump with a state visit. And, writing in the Guardian on Sunday, he said Trump used the language of the “fascists of the 20th century.”
As his plane was touching down, Trump responded by criticizing Khan’s record as mayor and mocking his height. (Khan is 5-foot-6.) Trump also misspelled his name.
“@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘nasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job — only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!”
Khan’s spokesman said such “childish insults” should be “beneath the president of the United States.”
On Monday afternoon, Khan posted a video message that began, “President Trump, if you are watching this, your values, and what you stand for, are the opposite of London’s values and the values of this country.”
Khan also criticized Trump for inserting himself into the internal politics of Britain.
Trump arrived at a sensitive political moment in Britain. May will officially leave her post as leader of the Conservative Party on Friday. The contest to replace her is in full swing, with at least 13 candidates known to have thrown their hats in the ring. The winner is expected to be announced in July.
Trump told the Sun news outlet Friday that front-runner Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary, “would be excellent” as prime minister.
He spoke well, too, of Hunt, the current foreign secretary, who is also gunning for the top job. “Yep, like him,” Trump said.
Trump also weighed in on Brexit on Monday, tweeting: “Big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk!”
Before meeting the queen Monday, Trump was at the London residence of U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson, where he was possibly watching a little telly.
Trump tweeted: “Just arrived in the United Kingdom. The only problem is that @CNN is the primary source of news available from the U.S. After watching it for a short while, I turned it off. All negative & so much Fake News, very bad for U.S. Big ratings drop.”
If he had worked the remote, he could have presumably tuned into some of the more watched television stations in the country, such as the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky.
Johnson, who in addition to being U.S. ambassador owns the New York Jets football team, called the state visit “very significant.”
“He knows the security and prosperity of the U.S. is directly linked to the security and prosperity of the U.K.,” he told the BBC. “The special relationship will be a huge focus as we remember D-Day.”
“When I last spoke to him he was extremely enthusiastic,” he said of Trump. “The president’s mother was born here, and this is part of his DNA. Everything he is about revolves around this relationship. It could not be more important.”
More controversially, said Sunday that a future trade deal with the United States would include British health care, specifically the social medicine program called the National Health Service. Although Britons often complain about it, the program has broad support.
Many Britons have expressed fear that the United States has designs on profiting from the NHS.
Karla Adam contributed to this report.