Inside Trump’s relationship with The Queen

In many ways, the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the President of the United States of America couldn’t be more different. One was born into royalty and became an embodiment of etiquette during a record-breaking reign, while the other achieved fame as a brash TV personality before rising to power. However, the queen and Donald Trump have been forced to find common ground on a handful of occasions since the latter took office. Much of what they’ve discussed in those meetings has remained private, though one of them (no prizes for guessing which) has let a few juicy details slip during interviews. The way Trump tells it, his relationship with Queen Elizabeth is a splendid one, but is that really the case? Does the queen like The Donald?

The president’s relationship with the famous monarch got off to a false start in 2017. He was invited to the UK just weeks after taking office and was expected to be hosted by the queen during his time there, but their first meeting was postponed after a public outcry — over a million Brits signed a petition demanding the state visit be scrapped on account of Trump’s travel ban to majority Muslim countries. Trump finally met the head of the royal family in 2018 when he came to the UK on a working visit, and what has developed into an absolutely fascinating relationship began. How close have they become since then? Here’s what we know.

Trump was six when he first saw Queen Elizabeth

One of Donald Trump’s earliest childhood memories is of his mother watching Queen Elizabeth’s historic coronation in 1953 — the first one to be shown on TV. The popular 27-year-old princess assumed the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, and all the stops were pulled out for the ceremony. Representatives from over 40 Commonwealth countries joined the festivities in London, which included a thrilling display from the Royal Air Force. The pomp and pageantry captured the imagination of millions watching around the world, Scottish immigrant Mary Anne MacLeod Trump included.

Trump’s mother (who was raised in a fishing village near Stornoway, the largest town in Scotland’s Hebrides archipelago) was just 17 when she boarded the S.S. Transylvania, a passenger liner that set sail for the Big Apple in 1929. She made several trips back and forth over the next few years, according to The New Yorker, eventually settling in New York City, aged 19. She started a new life in America, but she always remained fond of her homeland. Speaking to Good Morning Britain in 2019, Trump said his mother would have been “very proud” to see him at Buckingham Palace. “She loved the royals, she loved the queen,” the president said. “She was a big fan.” Trump went on to claim that Her Majesty was “very honored” to learn that his mother was a royal fanatic. “The queen is a great lady, and my mother knew that.”

They were part of a freaky Instagram trend

Before Donald Trump was victorious in the 2016 presidential election, he became part of a freaky (but undeniably funny) trend that began on social media and spread across the entire internet like wildfire. It all started when 29-year-old graphic designer Michal Krauthamer decided to use Photoshop to put Trump’s face on Queen Elizabeth’s body, just for fun. “Photoshopping is one of my favorite things,” Krauthamer told The Forward, revealing that she was surprised at how well her first Trump-Queen face swap went down. “It was really funny so I made another and another and another.” Before she knew it, she’d created a viral sensation. “How quickly it spread was really crazy. I didn’t expect that.”

Krauthamer made it clear that she wasn’t making a political statement with her Instagram page, admitting that she was just in it for laughs. “This is what I do to unwind at the end of the day,” she said. “There’s a lot of bad news, a lot of fake news. I think this just makes people laugh.” The New York-based graphic designer revealed that her following isn’t all anti-Trump, as you might expect. “A lot of the comments I get are like… ‘I’m a Trump supporter and I still find this hilarious.'” But why put Trump’s face on the queen, of all people? “It’s really the hats, it’s the scene, it’s the fact that she’s a little old lady.”

Was Trump late for his first date with Queen Elizabeth?

Donald Trump reportedly pulled out of a visit to the UK in early 2017 after he got wind that protests were being planned to coincide with it. When he went to the UK as president for the first time in 2018, his visit was downgraded from “state” to “working” category. That wasn’t enough to placate protesters, however — a blimp of Trump as a wailing, orange-hued, diaper-wearing baby was seen in the skies above the English capital. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” Trump told The Sun.

The baby blimp appeared to genuinely offend the president, who clearly wanted his meeting with Queen Elizabeth to go smoothly. Biographer Michael D’Antonio told The New York Times that getting an audience with Her Majesty was “more important [to Trump] than any piece of legislation he could get through Congress,” so when reports that he left the queen waiting in the hot sun for 15 minutes while he ran late for their first meeting emerged, the president lashed out. Not only did he denounce the story as “fake news,” he claimed he was actually 15 minutes early, and it was he who had to wait, not the queen. According to the BBC‘s Reality Check team, rumors of Trump’s lateness were indeed greatly exaggerated — he stepped out of his vehicle just one minute after he was due to arrive.

Trump was accused of breaking royal protocol

While the whole Donald Trump being late for Queen Elizabeth thing turned out to be untrue, there was no denying the fact that the president went against royal protocol in a big way shortly after his arrival at Windsor Castle. As part of his working visit, Trump accompanied the queen on a ceremonial inspection of the Coldstream Guards, the British Army’s oldest continuously serving regiment. Members of the famous infantry unit stood in a guard of honor as the queen and her guest walked by, keeping perfectly straight expressions despite the huge gaffe unfolding before their eyes — a distracted Trump walked right in front of the queen, cutting her off in the process.

The blunder made instant headlines (Reuters reported that Trump “halted abruptly” in front of the queen, forcing the 92-year-old to “walk around” him) and caused outrage online. “I can’t even watch this,” sports presenter Joanna Gasiorowska tweeted. “Surely he knows the protocol but chooses to ignore it and that’s just bloody rude.” One ticked off user called the president’s behavior an “insult to Britain” in a scathing tweet, adding: “Absolutely clueless, classless, thoughtless, lacking in any dignity and without a shred of respect.” It wasn’t just Brits who were offended by Trump’s lack of etiquette, either. “Only Donald Trump could arouse my latent Canadian monarchism,” another Twitter user said (via HuffPost). “How *dare* he walk in front of the Queen?! What a boor.”

Trump thinks Queen Elizabeth is a 'beautiful woman'

The press went wild over his faux pas during the guard of honor, but Donald Trump had a blast when he met Queen Elizabeth for the first time during his working visit to the United Kingdom in 2018, and the queen apparently didn’t hate it, either. According to London’s Evening Standard, the president and the first lady were scheduled to meet the monarch for a half-hour afternoon tea, but the meeting lasted closer to 50 minutes. When Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan boarded Air Force One to interview Trump not long after his historic tea with the queen, the American waxed lyrical about Her Majesty and his fairytale day as her guest.

“I was walking up and I was saying [to Melania], ‘Can you imagine my mother seeing this scene?’ Windsor. Windsor Castle,” Trump said. “The queen is terrific. She is so sharp, so wise, so beautiful. Up close, you see she’s so beautiful. She’s a very special person. And the way she’s conducted herself for so many years — and she’s got a lotta years left.” 

What’s abundantly clear is that Trump is fond of the queen, but does the monarch like him back? When Morgan flat-out asked the president this very question, he seemed fairly confident that he’d made an impression on the royal. “Well I don’t want to speak for her, but I can tell you I liked her,” Trump said (via Daily Mail). “So usually that helps.”

Who actually invited Trump for a state visit?

Donald Trump finally got his big bells-and-whistles state visit to the United Kingdom in June 2019. “The President of The United States of America, President Donald J. Trump, accompanied by Mrs. Melania Trump, has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to pay a State Visit to the UK,” an announcement on the royal family’s Twitter account read. Many British MPs were appalled that Her Majesty was going to host the divisive president, but did the queen really invite Trump to London personally? Not exactly.

While the official statement made it sound as though she was the one who arranged the state visit, in reality, Queen Elizabeth is little more than a high profile holiday rep when it comes to these events. “HMQ is not responsible for the invitation for a state visit to the UK,” royal historian Cepe Smith said. “The decision is made by Government. As head of state she undertakes to host state visits which are requested by [the] Gov.”

To many, it looked like a friendly gesture on the queen’s part, but it was purely business. The state visit gave British politicians and leading figures the chance to bend Trump’s ear, Prince Charles included. The queen’s son is a passionate environmentalist and he took his chance to drill the president on climate action. Trump admitted to being moved by “his passion for future generations” in an interview with Good Morning Britain‘s Piers Morgan.

The truth about Trump and Queen Elizabeth's 'fist bump'

When heads of state meet Queen Elizabeth, they will usually greet her with a bow or a curtsy, but Donald Trump didn’t do either of those things on his working visit to the UK, instead choosing to shake Her Majesty’s hand. Critics of the president were quick to pounce, though according to the royal family’s website, there are “no obligatory codes of behavior when meeting the queen or a member of the royal family,” however the statement does add that “many people wish to observe the traditional forms.” Trump isn’t one of those people, as he proved when he returned to London for his state visit in 2019.

The president once again decided to shake the queen’s hand as opposed to a quick bow of the head, and it was a rather unusual handshake this time around — in fact, it looked more like a fist bump in the pictures. Twitter, needless to say, lapped it up. “Trump and the queen finally get their secret 10-step gangster handshake right,” one user joked (via Newsweek). “Fist bumps all round.” British tabloid Express brought in renowned royal correspondent Daniela Relph to examine the bizarre incident. “Some people are describing it as a fist bump; our careful analysis seems to suggest it wasn’t quite a fist bump but perhaps a slightly awkward handshake with a bit of a grip from the president,” she said. “So a little unusual in that approach.”

Melania Trump reportedly stepped in during an awkward exchange

Gift gaffes are always mortifying, but when the recipient of your gift is Queen Elizabeth II, the awkwardness is on another level. When Trump visited the queen on his working visit in 2018, he brought Prince Philip a fishing rod and gave Her Majesty a pewter horse statuette. “‘American Pewter Thoroughbred’ Presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Donald J. Trump President of the United States of America and Mrs. Melania Trump on the occasion of their visit to the United Kingdom July 13, 2018,” the plaque read (via InStyle). No word on what happened to Philip’s rod, but the queen had the horse statue on full display when Trump visited her for the second time in 2019 — though he apparently didn’t recognize it.

According to journalist Emily Andrews, Trump was shown the pewter horse during his tour of Buckingham Palace. The Sun‘s royal reporter said that the president was asked if the statue looked familiar to him, to which he reportedly replied, “No.” Yikes! Luckily for him, Melania was paying attention. Andrews claims FLOTUS quickly interjected to save her husband from further embarrassment, saying: “I think we gave that to the queen.” 

To make matters worse, Her Majesty totally outdid Trump with her gift that year; she gave him a first edition copy of The Second World War by Winston Churchill, complete with a leather box emblazoned with her royal cipher. 

The time Trump appeared to put his hand on Queen Elizabeth's back

When Trump went to Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019, he got the chance to speak at a lavish Buckingham Palace state banquet. Predictably, the president used his time to praise the United Kingdom and the queen herself, who was sitting right next to him. “From the Second World War to today, Her Majesty has stood as a constant symbol of these priceless traditions,” Trump said (via People). “She has embodied the spirit of dignity, duty and patriotism that beats proudly in every British heart.” Everything was going swimmingly until the queen stood for Trump’s toast, and the president appeared to place his hand on her back.

Trump was lambasted for breaking royal protocol, but in reality, he’s not the first official to get touchy with the queen. Canada’s Governor General caused a commotion among royalists when he put his hand on the queen’s elbow as she descended a flight of stairs in 2017, and former first lady Michelle Obama stirred controversy when she put her arm around the monarch back in 2009. “I daresay that the queen was okay with it,” Obama wrote in her book, Becoming (via People). “Because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.” The queen doesn’t appear to be a stickler for this particular rule — she “seemed unfazed” by Trump’s back pat, London’s Evening Standard reported.

Trump backed Queen Elizabeth during the Sussexes row

Trump has denied calling Meghan Markle “nasty” during an interview with a British tabloid, despite the fact that it’s all on tape. Markle was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton during her 2016 election campaign, and the actress made no secret of her feelings about her opponent. During an appearance on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Markle called Trump “misogynistic” and indicated that she’d leave the U.S. if he became president. When The Sun relayed all this to Trump, he responded: “What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty.” The president’s comments came just before his state visit in 2019. Markle was on maternity at the time, but Prince Harry was around. Photos from the visit seem to show Harry actively avoiding Trump.

This all unfolded before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shocked the world by revealing that they were stepping back from royal life. They reportedly made the bombshell announcement without informing the queen, which clearly rubbed Trump up the wrong way. “I think it’s sad,” he told Fox News. “[Queen Elizabeth’s] a great woman. She’s never made a mistake if you look. I mean, she’s had a flawless time.” The president didn’t “want to get into the whole [Meghan and Harry] thing,” but he did admit to feeling sorry for Her Majesty, saying: “I just have such respect for the Queen. I don’t think this should be happening to her.”

Trump and Queen Elizabeth had coronavirus calls

At the time of this writing, Queen Elizabeth will take a trip to her beloved Balmoral with Prince Philip once coronavirus restrictions for over 70s are lifted, per The Sun. The monarch and her 99-year-old husband have reportedly been shielding at Windsor Castle during the pandemic, meaning she hasn’t been able to carry out engagements (Philip announced his retirement from royal duties in 2017). She has, however, had access to a telephone. The queen has reportedly spoken with numerous world leaders over the phone during the COVID-19 lockdown, Donald Trump included. According to the BBC, Trump and the queen had a little chit-chat not long after her muted birthday celebrations.

“The president wished the queen a happy birthday, marking 94 extraordinary years,” the White House revealed. “The president also expressed his condolences for the British people who have lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.” According to a statement, the president and the queen also “reaffirmed that the United States and United Kingdom stand together in our special relationship and will emerge from this trying time stronger than ever before.” The call was played off as “soft diplomacy” by the BBC, but for Trump, every interaction with the queen is a win. In fact, meeting her will be “one of his dying thoughts,” according to Michael D’Antonio. “When he is about to leave this earth, he will think, ‘I was that person, standing with the queen,'” the biographer told The New York Times.

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