Toasting Trump, Queen Elizabeth lays out state banquet welcome

LONDON (Reuters) - A four-course meal, more than 2,000 pieces of silver-gilt cutlery and a toast to the queen: Donald Trump enjoyed an opulent state banquet hosted by Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife First Lady Melania, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Britain's Charles, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall pose at the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain June 3, 2019. Jeff Gilbert/Pool via REUTERS

While this is the first time Trump and his wife Melania have experienced a royal British banquet, the queen is used to such occasions: it is the 113th time Queen Elizabeth has hosted a state visit.

State visit invitations are extended by the government, but the queen acts as host.

After being greeted at Buckingham Palace with a cannon salute and marching Guards band, Trump had a private lunch with the monarch and tea with her son Prince Charles.

They then attended a formal banquet at which men wore white tie and coats with tails and women evening gowns. Melania wore a Dior Haute Couture ivory silk crepe gown with silk tulle detail.

“As we look to the future, I am confident that our common values and shared interests will continue to unite us,” Elizabeth said at the banquet, before toasting Trump and his wife.

“Tonight we celebrate an alliance that has helped to ensure the safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades, and which I believe will endure for many years to come,” Elizabeth said.

Trump praised Elizabeth for her contribution to the war effort World War Two, recounting a story of her repairing a military truck engine.

“That young mechanic was the future queen - a great, great woman,” Trump said. “The bond between our nations was forever sealed in that great crusade.”

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“As we honor our shared victory and heritage we affirm the common values that will unite us long into the future; freedom, sovereignty, self determination, the rule of law and reference for the rights given to us by almighty God.”

Then the meal began: a steamed fillet of halibut with watercress mousse followed by a saddle of Windsor lamb and then strawberry sable with lemon verbena cream and a selection of assorted fresh fruits.

Wines on offer included a 2014 English sparkling Windsor Great Park and a 1990 Chateau Lafite Rothschild.

The meal was served on the silver-gilt “Grand Service”, originally commissioned by George IV when he was Prince of Wales in 1806. It consists of over 4,000 pieces for dining, including dinner plates and 107 candelabra.

Buckingham Palace says the final build of the State Banquet table starts around five days before the arrival of the visiting head of state, and that every detail of the meal is checked and approved by Queen Elizabeth.

Flower displays are in shades of summer pink and comprise of sweet peas, mixed peonies, sweet Avalanche roses, stock and larkspur. Each of the napkins is folded into a Dutch bonnet by a person titled Yeoman of the China and Glass Pantry.

Trump joins Barack Obama and George W. Bush as the only U.S. presidents to have official state visits to Britain with Queen Elizabeth. She has met all 13 presidents in her reign except Lyndon Johnson.

Trump, who was widely seen to have broken royal protocol when he failed to bow to the queen in 2018 and then walked in front of her as they inspected a guard, avoided the mild embarrassment suffered by his predecessor at the state banquet.

During his state banquet in 2011, Obama spoke over the British national anthem after musicians struck up during a pause in his toast, and then raised his glass to the queen at the wrong moment.

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Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Angus MacSwan/Guy Faulconbridge