LONDON — Donald Trump will stay in the U.K. for three full days after arriving for his first official visit to the country Thursday — but will spend hardly any time in London.
The U.S. president and the first lady will jet into the U.K. from the NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday afternoon, before a black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchills birthplace, later that evening, according to a briefing for journalists by No. 10 Downing Street.
On Friday, Trump will hold talks with Theresa May at the U.K. prime ministers rural retreat, Chequers, before making the 25-mile journey south to Windsor Castle — the site of Prince Harrys wedding to Meghan Markle — to meet the queen. In the evening, the Trumps will fly to Scotland, where they will spend the weekend before moving on to Helsinki, Finland, to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Monday, July 16.
Throughout the three-day official visit to the U.K., Trump will only venture into the capital once, to stay overnight at the U.S. ambassadors official residence, Winfield House, on Thursday evening, which is less than a quarter of a mile from Londons Central Mosque where a call to morning prayer sounds at 3:05 a.m.
For the rest of the visit, Trump will be kept away from the tens of thousands expected to flock into London for a rally protesting his visit. Activists from across Europe are expected to attend a “carnival of resistance” against the president and a six meter-tall “baby Trump” blimp will fly above the city during the trip.
The queen has met every U.S. president except one — Lyndon Johnson — since acceding to the throne in 1952.
Chequers is 40 miles from London and set in 1,000 acres of rolling countryside, far from any crowds. Blenheim Palace is even further away from the capital — 60 miles — and surrounded by 2,000 acres of grounds. Windsor Castle, a family home to English royalty for 1,000 years, is also far more secluded than Buckingham Palace in central London.
Downing Street on Friday played down accusations it has deliberately sought to keep the president away from the capital to avoid protests.
Trump is not the first U.S. president to be entertained at the prime ministerial country retreat rather than at No. 10 Downing Street. Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush, were all entertained at Chequers, the prime ministers deputy spokeswoman said Friday.
The trip has, however, been carefully designed to promote the “special relationship” between the U.K. and U.S., which has showed signs of neglect under Trump and May, with the U.S. president striking a seemingly closer personal bond with French President Emmanuel Macron instead.
On Thursday at Blenheim Palace — the ancestral home of the Spencer-Churchill family, whose members include Princess Diana as well as Britains wartime leader — Trump will be welcomed with a military ceremony in the Great Court performed by the bands of the Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards. The bands will play the “Liberty Fanfare,” “Amazing Grace” and the National Emblem march in honor of the president.
There will be around 100 guests at the dinner, including business chiefs and senior figures from Britains defense industry.
During dinner, the Countess of Wessexs orchestra will perform a series of classic British and American hits, the prime ministers deputy spokeswoman said Friday. The Royal Regiment of Scotland will then pipe the president out at the end.
The next morning, the president and the prime minister will visit a U.K. defense site for “a demonstration of the U.K.s cutting edge military capabilities and integrated U.K.-U.S. military training.”
After lunch at Chequers and a press conference afterwards, the president and first lady will have an audience with the queen.
The queen has met every U.S. president except one — Lyndon Johnson — since acceding to the throne in 1952. Trump will be her 13th encounter, suitably visiting Windsor on Friday, July 13.