Well, it’s been an interesting week for the Royal Family:
- A petition started to ban President Donald Trump from making an official state visit to the United Kingdom and meeting Queen Elizabeth has gained 1.8 million signatures, the support of several high-ranking MPs and several calls from the editorial pages of major newspapers. A debate has been scheduled in Parliament for February 20. I have said in three blog posts now that I think rescinding the invitation is a mistake in the long-run, but I am interested in seeing how this is handled. On Thursday, former Prime Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said he thinks it likely the Queen will host Trump at Balmoral over the summer so as to avoid protests in London. The full quote:
“You have to respect the office but you don’t have to accord somebody the full panoply of a state visit when the greatest presidents on earth and in history had to wait two or three years for it.
“I think him going to Scotland is quite likely, and I’ll tell you why.
“If you come to London in current circumstances or with another embarrassment there will be hundreds of thousands certainly, maybe more, people in the streets.
“I think they will see Balmoral as a much, much safer option because even in Scotland, even from my constituency which is adjacent to Balmoral in the north east of Scotland, it takes me a good two hours to get there from my house.
“So I reckon they think Balmoral is a much better option to try and minimise the protesters, but believe me if it was Balmoral, if it’s London, if it’s Timbuktu, he’ll be met by very substantial protests.”
Now, the timing of the invitation is an issue I haven’t touched on yet and it’s a good one because it underlines how incredibly bizarre, if not stupid, it is that an invitation was made in the first place. The only argument I can come up with, beyond Prime Minister Theresa May’s political motivations, is that by issuing the invitation early in Trump’s term when there was still a question as to what his presidency would look like, they would be able to take advantage of that uncertainty. But that argument isn’t very convincing and it’s a strange break in tradition that of all presidents, Trump is the one visiting during his first year in office.
- On a slightly related note, the Prince of Wales made a speech this week at a Jewish charity, World Jewish Relief, supporting Syrian refugees, where he told the audience it was critical to “reach across the boundaries of faith and community… particularly at a time when the horrific lessons of the last War seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten.” Naturally this was seen as – and likely was – a veiled reference to last weekend’s executive order from the White House restricting travel into the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. You can read the full speech here.
- And moving into a lighter direction, this morning’s post on Meghan Markle mentioned the recent sighting of her and Prince Harry out and about in London, but earlier in the week it was reported that an advance team of Royal Protection Officers were spotted in Verbier, Switzerland, a favorite Windsor ski spot. It’s believed that Prince Harry and Markle may be planning a trip there in March. Now, when I first read the article I wondered why it was assumed the RPOs were there for Harry and not, say, William and Kate, who love skiing and took their family last year. But according to the article linked above, those who spotted the officers recognized one as previously serving Harry. So, we’ll see come March.
- Prince Harry, meanwhile, has taken on a slew of engagements this past week where he continued to speak out on mental health and advocate for more conversation on the topic. Speaking to ambulance crews in London, he said:
“I also believe if people in the green uniform aren’t coming forward and talking about it, people driving blue-light vehicles in general aren’t talking about it, then the rest of us aren’t going to talk about it. You guys are literally right in the thick of it, and to be able to carry on and operate at a really high percentage and be on your game the whole time, you need to come back and just get rid of all that – it’s unnecessary baggage.
“We’re all human, we’re not machines, despite a lot of people in certain jobs having to think and behave like machines in order to get the best out of you. I accept that – but it’s not weakness, it’s strength to be able to come forward, deal with it, move on and be a better person.”
- Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be, a charity patronized by the Duchess of Cambridge, told People that Kate’s work on the issue of mental health is sparking a “real sea change” in reducing stigma around it. The story ran today, 48 hours before Kate joins William and Harry in a practice session for the Virgin London marathon set for April. While Kate’s patronage is invaluable given her profile and I have high hopes for these three’s prioritization of the issue, I’m also dubious that an aspect of the campaign introduced a couple weeks ago has already sparked a “sea change.” My main takeaway is merely that this is a great news hit for Kate’s press office to highlight her upcoming engagements.
- I ran across a theory somewhere (unfortunately I can’t remember where) that the two-week gap in-between William and Kate’s last engagement and Sunday’s Heads Together event could speak to them having accompanied the Middletons on their annual sojourn to Mustique. If they have tans this weekend, then maybe?
- And finally, on a more historical note, the Queen has opened up access to 33,000 historical documents via the Georgian Papers Programme. While the current batch of released materials are from the reign of George III, including letters between him and his wife, Queen Charlotte, papers from George I, George II, George IV and William IV will subsequently be made available.