Prince Harry and his brother Prince William have successfully denied Donald Trump the opportunity of appearing in a photo with either of them or their glamorous and popular wives during his state visit to the U.K., which would have been invaluable PR for his 2020 re-election campaign, after the president used the word “nasty” while discussing Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle.
Trump subsequently attempted to deny having said Meghan herself was “nasty,” despite being clearly heard using the word on a recording, suggesting instead that he was describing what she said about moving to Canada if he got elected as a “nasty” comment.
Prince Harry is thought to have been angered by the undiplomatic remarks, made to a reporter from The Sun newspaper, and although he did not pull out of a scheduled private luncheon with Trump and his family on Monday, he had a face like thunder when he was pictured shortly afterward processing into a specially curated exhibition of American artifacts from the Royal Collection.
Harry appeared to be escorting Trump’s daughter Ivanka; however, when the prince appeared to realize the walkthrough of the exhibit was being filmed, he quickly ducked out of the event.
Trump, however, has been left unable to complain and demand a photo call with Harry or William, because he has been given several moments with the queen and Prince Charles, who significantly outrank Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, and therefore not obligated to take part in state occasions.
Trump’s cold-shouldering by William and Kate is arguably a more provocative move on the part of the young royals.
As second in line to the throne, it could be argued that William and his wife do have a responsibility to greet Trump one-on-one in front of the cameras, but so far they have studiously avoided doing so.
At last night’s state banquet, they were both seated several places away from Trump, in what was clearly a deliberate (and successful) attempt to restrict the president’s ability to harness the popularity of the young royals.
Harry was never scheduled to attend the state banquet, but his absence was still (correctly) interpreted as a snub to Trump.
Meghan is on maternity leave and therefore has a completely plausible and diplomatically watertight excuse not to attend any functions this week at all.
It was also noticeable that when Trump visited Westminster Abbey on Monday to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, he was not accompanied by William, as might have been expected, but by Prince Andrew, the queen’s second son.
Andrew’s name-recognition in the wider U.S. is minimal, meaning the trip will have little PR value for the 2020 campaign.
Instead, Trump will have to be content with images of him greeting the queen and Prince Charles.
And yet, President Trump has made it clear to those close to him that he actually does care about his reputation among the British royals. According to several former and current White House officials, Trump will grow visibly more animated or excited when the topic of meeting prominent members of royal families comes up, including the British royals. He makes a point of repeatedly asking aides about what he and others should wear during state visits and high-profile events with foreign countries’ royalty, the sources said, and enthusiastically asks advisers about what kind of pomp and pageantry he should expect.
“He is sensitive about the perceptions that he offended… the Queen,” a former White House official said, referencing a moment last year when the U.S. president appeared to briefly and awkwardly walk in front of the then 92-year-old Queen Elizabeth II. “He also really just wants the [British] royal family to like him.”
Despite his faux pas, it was Trump’s yearning for approval and rapport with the British royal family that largely fueled his response to U.S. media reactions to his “nasty” remark.
“I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!” the president tweeted earlier this week. Over the weekend, the 2020 Trump campaign also kicked into high-gear on social media to defend the president over characterizations that he called Markle “nasty.”
Two people close to the president said that on multiple occasions he’s complained privately about a media narrative that he believes portrays the British royal family as hating Trump and not wanting to spend time with him while he’s in town. “The president thinks that it’s ‘fake news’ trying to make it look like they don’t like him personally, when really [he feels that] they do love Trump,” one of these sources said.
For instance, The Times reported last year that “Prince Charles and Prince William were unwilling to meet Donald Trump on his visit to Britain, leaving the Queen to greet the US president alone.”
Further, a Whitehall official told The Times that the queen’s meeting last year with President Trump was “kept to the bare minimum. The Queen will do her duty, but among the wider family, they were not as enthusiastic as they were when [President Barack] Obama came over.”