Royals to serve as extras in Donald Trump’s victory lap of UK

Julian Borger in Washington


Donald Trump’s state visit this week to the UK is being promoted as a celebration of a close alliance tempered through war.

It could be more accurately described as a personal lap of victory for the US president, performed largely at the expense of his hosts.

Trump arrives in London having survived Robert Mueller’s last blow, a verbal recap of the special counsel’s finding that the president could neither be charged with crimes nor exonerated.

Related: Trump's coming to see the Queen but what actually happens on a state visit? – podcast

The president is now on the counter-attack and may well use his visit to repeat his claim – called “utterly ridiculous” by GCHQ – that UK intelligence helped spy on his election campaign.

The rich pageantry that the British monarchy supplies will not only distract from the lingering clouds of suspicion, but send a bright red, white and blue message of reassurance to the Trump faithful that, while his domestic enemies might yap at his heels, he is still treated like royalty in foreign capitals.

“What he wants is the adulation,” said Thomas Wright, the director of the centre on the US and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “He wants the protocol and the grandeur and to be at the centre of it all. It is how he sees global diplomacy. It’s going from palace to chancellery, meeting leaders and looking the part.”

For that purpose, the UK visit could not be more perfect. On Monday, the Queen will greet Trump ceremonially in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. He will inspect a guard of honour and there will be royal gun salutes fired from Green Park and the Tower of London.

There will be afternoon tea and banquets and then, in Portsmouth, the martial grandeur of the Royal Navy.

Trump is bringing his extended family, including the heirs to his fortune and political power, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka. The most powerful of them, Ivanka, will attend a “business leaders” breakfast on Tuesday with her father in the company of Theresa May and the Duke of York.

Travelling Trumps


When Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive for a state visit to the UK on 3 June, they will reportedly be joined by the president’s four adult children and their spouses. Here's who is in the family entourage:


Ivanka Trump


Ivanka is Trump’s oldest daughter and works in the White House (unpaid) as an adviser to the president. Trump has relied on her often for overseas diplomacy, including sitting in for him briefly at a G20 summit, and he said he had considered naming her to head the World Bank. She has visited Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast on behalf of the administration to promote women’s rights. Before her father’s presidency, Trump ran her own fashion line.


Jared Kushner


Trump’s son-in-law is a White House senior adviser and the administration’s envoy to the Middle East (also unpaid). With his wife Ivanka he has also been the subject of a host of controversies – with a whistleblower alleging they were granted sensitive security clearances over the objections of career security experts. He has also been accused of conflicts of interest over his family’s sprawling real-estate empire. Kushner wears many hats in Washington. He is supposed to come up with a Middle East peace plan, as well as US immigration policy.


Donald Trump Jr


Trump’s eldest son and his brother, Eric, run their father’s business empire while he is in the White House. Officially, Trump Jr is executive vice-president of the Trump Organization. It was Trump Jr who met a Russian lawyer in an infamous Trump Tower meeting in New York in 2016, after the Russian offered him election ‘dirt’ on the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Kushner also attended. Although accepting campaign help from foreign nationals is illegal, the special counsel Robert Mueller said after investigating that there was not enough evidence to prove meeting participants knew they were breaking the law. Trump Jr may be accompanied by his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host.


Eric Trump


Eric Trump is the co-leader of the Trump Organization during his father’s presidency. He has defended his father from accusations of racism, and called the president’s critics “not even people”. He is parodied on the weekly US satirical comedy TV show Saturday Night Live and elsewhere as the not-so-sharp Trump brother, though supporters call this portrayal inaccurate. Most recently, a watchdog group has been pressing to find out how much it cost taxpayers when Eric and members of one of the family’s golf clubs travelled to Scotland to play the links.


Lara Trump


Lara Trump is a campaign adviser to Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and wife to Eric. A vocal defender of her father-in-law, she recently made headlines by saying the decision to let in large numbers of migrants fleeing war- and poverty-torn countries for Europe was “one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany”.


Tiffany Trump


Tiffany is the lowest profile of Trump’s adult children and his only child with second wife Marla Maples. She headed to London ahead of the rest of her family. The 25-year-old is a graduate student at Georgetown Law in Washington DC. She travelled to the Cannes film festival earlier this month with her wealthy boyfriend, in a trip that has drawn scrutiny over its cost to taxpayers in terms of security for the presidential daughter.


The scenes will eventually be marketed by his business empire and his re-election machine in the same way: the House of Trump and the House of Windsor, the top luxury brands of their respective nations, sitting down to make deals in the most sumptuous settings.

In effect, the British royals will be serving as co-stars and extras in stock footage for Trump’s 2020 re-election ads. The only royal with experience of acting for a living, Meghan, the American-born Duchess of Sussex, is thought to be staying away.

She is on maternity leave after having baby Archie, but she has called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic” in the past. In return, he declared her “nasty” in a pre-departure Sun interview.

Trump’s progress will be triumphal in other ways. May – who told him off for sharing far-right videos in 2017, and whom he has taunted mercilessly ever since for failing to deliver Brexit – will be in her last days as prime minister.

The former Conservative foreign secretary Boris Johnson, whom Trump has consistently backed over May, and who he has said would do “an excellent job”, is tipped as most likely to succeed her. The Brexit party leader, Nigel Farage, another Trump favourite, emerged victorious from the European elections, while the hardest of all Brexits remains a likelihood. The US president is winning all his bets in the UK, and it would be out of character if he did not remind the hapless outgoing prime minister of that fact.

Johnson and Farage were expected to attend a banquet thrown at the US ambassador’s London residence, Winfield House, on Tuesday night, though Farage claims he has been banned from meeting the president by the May government. Trump was coy on whether he would meet them but gave them a resounding shout-out last Thursday as “two very good guys, very interesting people”.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Trump called on Britain to leave the European Union without a deal if Brussels refuses to meet its demands, and urged the government to send Farage into the negotiations.

The state visit is an opportunity for Trump to double down on his bet on Brexit, with the ultimate aim of striking his own bilateral trade deal with an amputated and weakened Britain.


After arriving in the UK on Air Force One on Monday 3 June, US president Donald Trump will be formally welcomed in a ceremony in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. It will be attended by the Queen and Prince Charles. The president will then attend a private lunch at the palace, which is expected to be attended by Prince Harry, but not his wife, who Trump recently described as 'nasty'.

Following a wreath-laying ceremony in Westminster Abbey, Donald Trump will join Prince Charles for an afternoon tea at Clarence House. The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince Harry will then host a state banquet in the evening, which will be attended by prominent US citizens who live in the UK, as well as political and civic leaders.

On Tuesday 4 June the visit includes a breakfast meeting with Prince Andrew, and then talks and a press conference with prime minister Theresa May at Downing Street. On the Tuesday evening Trump hosts a dinner at the residence of the US ambassador.

On Wednesday 5 June Trump will take part in commemoration services in Portsmouth to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The day ends with the Queen formally bidding farewell to the US president. 

Trump’s entourage will also include two identical seven-seat black armoured limousines nicknamed ‘The Beast’, and a number of presidential helicopters. The president has at his side at all times one of five rotating military aides who carry the nuclear ‘football’ which can trigger a missile strike - equipped with communication tools and a book with prepared war plans.  


“This is not about seeing where the UK is vulnerable in a post-EU environment and buttressing it; I think this is using US trade leverage to get as many gains as possible,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

That leverage will be used to peel the UK away from EU regulations to fall in line with US standards on food, healthcare and banking. The US president will be coming to press home his advantage.

“Trump is pursuing a predatory approach to Brexit,” Wright said. “It’s an opportunist strategy to take advantage of Britain’s vulnerability.”