Donald Trump Is In The UK – But How Does A State Visit Really Work?

There's a *lot* of pomp and ceremony to come.

LONDON — Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you have probably heard that Donald Trump – one of the most controversial politicians on the planet – has arrived in the UK for a state visit.

As you might expect, plenty of people are less than thrilled the president has been invited for the trip, with thousands expected to descend on London for protests.

But what exactly is a state visit – and how does one work?

What is a state visit?

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A state visit is a formal trip to the UK by a head of state – a president, prime minister or monarch – at the invitation of the Queen (though in reality it is the government who decides who should be asked).

Getting an invitation for this kind of trip is a big deal for any leader. Not only is it a signal that the UK wants to strengthen its ties with their country, but it’s a chance to be a guest of the *actual Queen* – there are few honours greater than that the UK is able to offer.

A state visit usually lasts around three days. Trump will be in the UK between June 3 - 5.

What does it involve?

<strong>The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Queen Maxima at a state banquet in 2018 </strong>
The Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla with King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Queen Maxima at a state banquet in 2018
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As you would expect from a trip hosted by the royal family, there is a *lot* of pomp and ceremony involved in a state visit.

It usually begins with the Queen greeting her guests with a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guard Parade – the parade ground at Whitehall used to commemorate Her Maj’s official birthday.

The guest of honour will then be invited to inspect a Guard of Honour (i.e. lots men in uniform standing in a line) before being whisked to Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession through London with the Queen.

However, things are expected to be a little different for Trump’s visit. It is thought he will be welcomed by the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla in the garden at Buckingham Palace, before having a spot of lunch. (Prince Harry is expected to make an appearance at this point.)

<strong>The ballroom of Buckingham Palace during a state banquet in 2018 </strong>
The ballroom of Buckingham Palace during a state banquet in 2018
YUI MOK via Getty Images

During his trip, the president will also be treated to a state banquet – a grand dinner in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace with around 150 guests. During this OTT affair, the Queen will make a speech about Trump – then it’s the president’s turn. (Oh, to be a fly on that wall.)

The rest of Trump’s trip will be taken up by a meeting with Theresa May (we’re sure the highly-opinionated president will be nothing but sympathetic about the departing PM’s plight) and an event in Portsmouth to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Donald and his wife Melania are also expected to host Charles and Camilla for dinner at the residence of the US ambassador during their trip.

Unlike other state visitors, the president has not been invited to speak in front of MPs in the House of Commons.

Wait, hasn’t Trump already had a state visit?

<strong>The Queen with Donald and Melania Trump during the president's 2018 visit to the UK </strong>
The Queen with Donald and Melania Trump during the president's 2018 visit to the UK
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Anyone in the country during Trump’s trip to the UK in 2018 would be hard-pressed to forget that the president has visited before.

Tens of thousands of protestors brought central London to a standstill during his trip last summer, joined by the infamous ‘Trump Baby’ inflatable.

Meanwhile, there was widespread outrage from royalist Brits after it appeared that the commander in chief had left the 92-year-old Queen waiting 15 minutes for him in the summer sun. (The president insists he didn’t.)

<strong>The infamous 'Trump baby' balloon </strong>
The infamous 'Trump baby' balloon
Kristian Buus via Getty Images

But despite all the uproar about Trump’s presence in the UK – and the fact he met the Queen – his 2018 trip was not in fact a state visit.

The invitation for such a visit was sent to the president not long after he took office, but the trip was downgraded to an official visit over security concerns.

Who else has been invited for one?

The country might have worked itself into a frenzy over Trump’s controversial visit, but if one person is unfazed by the trip, it’s probably the Queen.

Since taking the throne in 1952, HRH has hosted no fewer than 112 state visits – and Trump is far from the first contentious guest she has had to deal with.

Back in 1994, Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe was invited for a state visit, during which he was given an honorary knighthood. However, the title was revoked from Mugabe – who has been accused of orchestrating human rights abuses – in 2008 over allegations his regime had attacked opposition members.

<strong>Prince Philip with Robert Mugabe and the Queen before a state banquet in 1994 </strong>
Prince Philip with Robert Mugabe and the Queen before a state banquet in 1994
PA Archive/PA Images

Fast-forward nine years and Vladimir Putin was the leader being treated to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace. It was the first time a Russian head of state had made an official visit to the UK since Tsar Nicholas I in 1843 – but the pomp and ceremony put on for Putin, the former KGB agent, – was not received well by the public.

<strong>The Queen with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2003 </strong>
The Queen with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in 2003
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The arrival of King Abdullah of Saudia Arabia in 2007 was no less controversial, attracting protests along the Mall during his carriage procession with the Queen and outside the Saudi embassy.