The oft-delayed visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to the UK is apparently back on the books for this summer. The plan sees Trump arriving on Friday, July 13 for what Downing Street is calling a “working visit,” thus dampening expectations of a full-blown state visit. As such, there won’t be a state dinner and while Trump may still meet the Queen, the entire affair will have decidedly less fanfare.
At first I figured that the motivation behind this was simply that the furor we saw last year has died down. Yes, Trump is still wildly controversial and hated by many, but the dislike tinged with shock and fear that shaped the conversation around his visit in 2017 has evolved somewhat. Evolved into what, you ask? Well, let’s see how this plays out in July.
But timing is key here and the more that I think about this, the more genius it is. This is truly some crafty comms work.
The news was announced the same week that Prince Louis of Cambridge made his debut, thus while it was certainly reported it has absolutely been overwhelmed by all things Royal Baby. That and we’re three weeks about from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, so even if this gets a second life in the coming days, it will soon be drowned out again by all things Royal Wedding.
Now, the visit itself – the outrage the first time around was premised on horror at the idea of Trump being allowed to meet the beloved Queen. Then there was the fact that Trump’s old tweets criticizing the Duchess of Cambridge for sunbathing topless back in 2012 were dug up, and he made comments about romantically pursuing the late Princess of Wales in what can only be called poor taste.
As such, the idea of the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Harry having to shake hands with Trump was considered unfathomable. Layer in that Meghan has made openly anti-Trump remarks from her past life as a U.S. actress with no need to be diplomatic, much less neutral, and you have yourself quite the quandary.
But July is actually the perfect way to sidestep much of this. Kate will still be on maternity leave and thus easily able to sidestep the question of appearing in public or being photographed with Trump. July is also a distinct possibility for Harry and Meghan’s first foreign tour, which would take them out of the country around the same time. Obviously this last guess isn’t official, but even if their tour doesn’t overlap, the argument could be made they were in the throes of planning or recovering. And I’m putting at least some money on a July tour since we know they’ll be in Australia in October, which I don’t think will be their first jaunt, September is too close to October and August is always dead. Very scientific, you see 😉
That leaves the Prince of Wales, the Queen and William high and dry, but I am less concerned about them, particularly the first two. Excuses could easily be made for William being holed up in Norfolk with Kate and the children – and frankly I think they should be given that all the coverage of him meeting Trump would be framed around the latter’s comments about Kate and Diana. As for the Queen and Charles, well, they’re the monarch and the heir and this is quite frankly their job. It’s unclear whether Trump will actually come face-to-face with Charles, who has subtly criticized his policies over the past year, but he is tipped to meet the Queen at either Buckingham Palace or Windsor at some point during his stay.
The real plot twist will be whether Melania or Ivanka Trump join the President, in which case they might be used for other royal meetings, but given that this is being branded a “working visit” that’s decidedly less clear.
Time will tell and I’ll update as more detail is reported!