LONDON – In Britain, a state visit is not just a dinner with the Prime Minister or even a tea with the Queen. It means an extraordinary amount of pomp and splendor as well as an overnight stay at Buckingham Palace.
At least normally.
Britain prepares for President Trump's state visit this week, as only Britain can. There will be an official Welcome Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, a lavish banquet with the Queen's finest porcelain, a Green Park Armor and the Tower of London.
Everything will be adequately exaggerated.
But there is also the feeling that British officials are not thrilled with this special round of state visit.
Some of the traditional things – such as staying at Buckingham Palace, a Royal Reception at the Horse Guards Parade, and a golden carriage procession down the mall – are especially absent.
"When you extend your visit and make those plans concrete, you want to feel excited and pleased with the idea, and I think people have seen it as something you have to get through," said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of Chatham House Americas program.
However, she added that the interest of the British public remains high. "Every time an American president comes to the city, it's exciting, not necessarily for the right reasons, but certainly the people in the city are very attentive, not least because of the traffic congestion," she said, referring to planned mass protests ,
The British government, which is dealing with its own domestic civil unrest, seemed for a long time worried about receiving Trump for a state visit.
First, it took a long time to write a date in the journal.
Prime Minister Theresa May extended the Queen's invitation in 2017 when Trump had been on the job for barely a week. The British government, caught so unprepared by Trump's election, sought the favor of the new president. The invitation was part of a spell offensive to win Trump's favor.
But almost every party that wondered why Trump received an honor that other leaders wait for years – and most US Presidents do not receive. That Trump was largely detested by the British public contributed only to dismay.
Just a year earlier, Parliament had held a formal debate over whether Trump should ban British soil from entering. For three hours, legislators spoke out on a candidate they described as racist, misogynist and "dangerously stupid".
Following the invitation, Lower House spokesman John Bercow said Trump would not be welcome to speak to the legislature of the Westminster Palace, as other presidents had done.
"Our rejection of racism and sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are extremely important considerations in the House of Commons," he said. Dozens of other parliamentarians have argued that the invitation should be withdrawn and a citizens' petition has collected 1.9 million signatures before it was closed.
This spring, there was an active campaign among MEPs to force the government not to invite Trump.
But in April, more than two years after the invitation was first offered, Buckingham Palace announced that a three-day state visit would take place.
That did not reassure the opposition. London Mayor Sadiq Khan, with whom Trump has often feuded, said on Friday that "it's wrong to roll out the red carpet," as important as the relationship between the United States and Britain may be.
Up to a quarter of a million Protesters are expected to take to the streets in London to register their dismay. Above them hovers an airship on which Trump is pictured as an overgrown baby – a diaper firmly attached to a mobile phone.
Eight former US Presidents visited the Queen during her long reign, which dates back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1959. But Trump is it After the presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama receives only the third American head of state the honor of a state visit.
Unlike his predecessor, Trump will not be staying at Buckingham Palace, the queen's official residence.
Instead, he will spend the night at Winfield House, the stately home of US Ambassador Woody Johnson, who owns (after Buckingham Palace) the second largest gardens in London. When Trump traveled to the UK for a modest working visit last summer, he also stayed there.
Buckingham Palace is reportedly unable to accommodate the Trumps, as renovations began in 2016. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including 52 "royal rooms and guest rooms", according to the official royal website.
Trump is known to treasure the queen. He once told the Times of London that his mother, born in Scotland, "loved the queen … she loved ceremonial beauty, because no one likes the English. And she had great respect for the Queen.
When Trump met the Queen last year, there was confusion as to who should go where the duo inspected the Queen's Honor Guard. At some point, the queen pointed to Trump and apparently instructed him where to go. The Internet was wildly wondering if Trump had flouted the queen by walking in front of her.
Over the next three days, Trump will meet with several senior royals – though not with the American royal Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, who gave birth last month. (She earlier called Trump "misogynist", calling her "bad" last week.) He is supposed to have a private lunch with the Queen and tea with Prince Charles and Camilla. On the last day of his visit, he will join the Queen and Prince Charles to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.
But whatever happens in the next few days, the queen is expected to be as inscrutable as ever.
"This is the Queen's job to deal with people, whether she likes them or not," said Robert Lacey, a royal biographer who noted that the Queen may not have liked all 13 British Prime Ministers during their long reign But she still meets her every week for "audience" and "treats her with absolute dignity".
"The Queen has dealt with monsters in her time, from Idi Amin to Robert Mugabe," he said, "and this is a elected head of state of our most important ally and friend." This is her job.