President Donald Trump is set to meet with Queen Elizabeth II next week at Buckingham Palace, making him the 12th U.S. president that has met with the British monarch during her 66 years on the throne, according to NDTV. And no president in living memory has stoked quite so much controversy around his visit as incumbent Donald J. Trump, a populist strongman who has turned traditional leadership on its head with his brash, unapologetic style that runs contrary to a more conservative and muted British sensibility concerning politics and politeness.
Prime Minister Theresa May is responsible for the affair, having invited Trump for a formal state visit – an opulent opportunity that features a trip in an open carriage through central London and a delightful banquet at Buckingham Palace – when she visited him in January of 2017 following his inauguration. Only two previous presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, have been afforded the honor of a full state visit from the British.
Many British lawmakers have railed against his visit, with the recent controversy surrounding the separation of undocumented children from their guardians at the border causing a great deal of controversy and renewed calls to revoke his invitation, according to TimesNowNews. Nearly 2 million signatures appear on a petition to prevent Trump from making his state visit to the UK, stating that it could potentially embarrass the Queen by association with the American president.
London mayor and Trump critic Sadiq Khan has gone on the record as having said that Trump was not welcome in the British capital city because of his controversial political style and that he would certainly face demonstrations and mass protests should he deign to appear. Other lawmakers and legislators such as Martin Vickers, a member of May’s Conservative Party, have said that the visit should most certainly go ahead, making it clear that the Queen has met other colorful characters before.
“Her Majesty has met… some ‘unsavory characters.’ In fact, she has met some characters who have actually taken up arms against the Crown, but she has moved on from that because it is in the best interests of our nation,” Vickers told Parliament last February.
“Mr. Trump has said some unusual and irregular things, and some things I would certainly not agree with, but he has not, like many world leaders who Her Majesty and the government have met over the years, abused human rights.
“There is absolutely no doubt, in my judgment, that we should indeed roll out the carpet for the President. We are not rolling out the carpet for Mr. Trump; we are rolling out the red carpet for our most valued ally.”
Other British lawmakers agreed with the assessment laid out by Vickers, including British Conservative Party MP Edward Leigh, a man who has served Parliament in his seat since 1983. Leigh pointed out that other divisive world leaders had been entertained and given the “royal” treatment in the past, figures which Leigh assesses as having a much greater negative connotation and darker histories than President Trump.
“When we invited not one but two Presidents of China, we were prepared to overlook the fact that China is effectively a police state,” he said. Leigh elaborated, noting that Queen Elizabeth II had also taken tea with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the British MP going on to describe the former president of the beleaguered African nation as “a racist homophobe.” Despite that, Leigh said, the British state overlooked his transgressions and afforded him hospitality and respect during his visit as due his station.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign has been the longest in recorded history. She remains a beloved figure of the British monarchy despite all political divides on the matter, superceding partisan politics in most cases despite some small opposition from critics.