At Windsor Castle Friday afternoon, Donald Trump’s brief but tumultuous visit to the United Kingdom came to a smooth, dignified, and perfectly choreographed end—largely because no one handed him a microphone.
Trump didn’t bow and his wife didn’t curtsey on arrival at Queen Elizabeth II’s country estate as might have been expected, but, on the plus side, he did shake Her Majesty’s hand like a normal human being, rather than attempting to arm wrestle a 92-year-old lady to assert his dominance.
From the moment the presidential chopper touched down in Windsor Great Park—which was last seen on American TV screens when Harry and Meghan rode in a carriage on its three-mile Long Walk after their wedding—it was clear that the red carpet was being rolled out.
Thirty miles away in London, blimps of big babies authorized by Mayor Sadiq Khan may have been flying in the air as tens of thousands of protestors swarmed the streets, but at postcard-perfect Windsor Castle, Donald and Melania Trump were given a welcome fit for a king.
The queen, glimmering in a blue suit and hat as sparkling as the blue skies that canopied the castle, took the lead, firmly pointing with a regal finger to where Trump and his wife should stand, as they ascended a tented dais where she had been patiently awaiting his arrival for several minutes.
A small but perfectly formed display of British pomp and ceremony ensued on Windsor Castle’s famous Quadrangle, which was bathed in summer sunshine.
Her Majesty’s personal guard of honor, 100 soldiers drawn from the Coldstream Guards, gathered on the great lawn of Windsor Castle, accompanied by the Guards’ marching band of 30 men who played ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ as Trump became the 12th president of the United States to meet the queen.
Despite the baking hot day, the guardsmen were fully attired in their distinctive bearskin hats, and Trump was then invited to inspect the guard of honor.
While the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards are the British Army’s longest serving unit, and it’s band is one of the finest and best-known military marching bands in the world, Trump did perhaps look slightly underwhelmed to be presented with such a bijou display of British pageantry.
But, as the British government has been at pains to make clear, this was a working visit with ceremonial attributes, not a full-blown state visit.
This meant that instead of a regiment, he had to be content with a company, instead of Buckingham Palace, he had to be content with Windsor Castle, and instead of a state dinner, he had to be content with afternoon tea with the queen (although most people would take the informality of afternoon tea over the rigid formality of a state banquet any day of the week).
The queen would have poured tea for her guests at Windsor Castle, and served them a choice of jam and cucumber sandwiches, and was no doubt quietly hoping he wouldn’t choose to release the content of their private conversation the moment he clambers aboard Air Force One.
Shortly after 6 p.m., the president departed the castle and, the official elements of the trip completed, is now en route to his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland for a weekend of rest and relaxation.