It’s Melania Trump’s inaugural trip to England as first lady and in addition to meeting with locals, she’s looking forward to getting the royal treatment.
“Certainly, meeting with veterans and local school children will be a highlight,” Trump’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham tells CNN. “And she is also looking forward to having tea with the Queen.”
Before President Donald Trump meets on Friday with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May, he and the first lady will enjoy a slightly more informal evening, albeit at a sprawling country palace in Oxfordshire, England, a bucolic rural region 60 miles outside of London.
Although 10 Downing Street and the White House are not calling Trump’s an official state visit, merely a “working visit,” the first couple will still witness a bit of fanfare on their first night at Blenheim Palace, the fabled 18th century estate, with its 187 rooms.
Blenheim is the current residence of the 11th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, although most of the rest of the palace is open to the public and available for touring as well as rental. Blenheim Palace also holds the distinction of being the birthplace of Britain’s most notable prime minister – and Trump favorite – Winston Churchill.
There, greeted by May, the Trumps will participate in an arrival ceremony and attend a gala black-tie dinner in one of the palace’s several gilded ballrooms. They are expected to be feted by dozens of well-heeled Brits, from political and business spheres, before returning to London via helicopter later Thursday night to stay at Winfield House, the vast residence of US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson.
On Friday, Melania Trump splits off from the President for her own agenda, most likely to include passing at least part of her day with Philip May, the 60-year-old husband of the prime minister.
May, a banker, is said to have purchased a new outfit just for the occasion, his wife told The Sunday Times: “He’s looking forward to meeting Melania. They were both at the G20 but because of timetables and so forth he wasn’t able to meet her there. He has been out and bought a new suit.”
Although the White House has yet to publicly release details of her schedule, the first lady might visit a medical care facility of some kind – during visits to Europe last year, she popped in on ill children at several hospitals in multiple countries. Grisham has yet to confirm the two leader spouses will pair up on Friday, yet the British press has widely reported it.
Once the daytime outing is complete, Trump will rejoin her husband and the two will head to Windsor Castle, the 1,000-plus room palace of Queen Elizabeth II. Located about a 40-minute drive from London, Windsor is said to be the Queen’s favorite weekend retreat. She has hosted American presidents and first ladies there before, most recently Barack and Michelle Obama in 2016.
One of her most famous visits with an American leader at Windsor came in 1982 when she and then-President Ronald Reagan, an avid horseman, rode side by side around the grounds.
But as Reagan was a fan of the outdoor ranch life, the current US President is a fan of outdoor military fanfare. As such, the Queen will oblige. The first couple will receive an official Windsor welcome in the dais at the center quadrant of the castle, then Melania Trump is scheduled to patiently wait while the Queen and the US President inspect the Guard of Honour, as the troops march past.
It is unclear if the 90-year-old Queen’s 97-year-old husband, Prince Philip, who recently retired from official duties, will be present for the arrival. If he is, he will keep the first lady company on the sidelines while their spouses are saluted.
Finally, the regalia put away, the first couple is scheduled for tea with the Queen inside one of Windsor Castle’s drawing rooms, a right proper end to their brief sojourn in England before once again jetting off, next stop: Scotland.