The confirmation that Donald Trump will meet the queen when he travels to England on a long-postponed official visit to the country raises the likelihood that Meghan Markle will have to swallow her political preferences and make nice to the visiting dignitary.
After all, back in her former life, when she was just another socially engaged actress, as opposed to a de facto star member of Britain’s foreign office, she was very clear that she hates Trump and everything he stands for.
On a television talk show prior to the 2016 election Markle threatened to leave the country if he got elected—a threat she has it could be said, followed through with (even if she specified Canada, rather than Kensington Palace, as her likely new home).
Appearing on Comedy Central’s Nightly Show, host Larry Wilmore asked the then-Suits actress what she thought of the possibility of Trump coming into power.
She replied: “We film Suits in Toronto and I might just stay in Canada. I mean, come on. If that’s really the reality that we are talking about, come on, that is really a game changer in terms of how we move in the world here.”
Meghan then added: “Yes of course Trump is divisive. Think about just female voters alone. I think it was in 2012, the Republican Party lost the female vote by 12 points. That’s a huge number and with someone as misogynistic as Trump is and so vocal about it, that’s a huge chunk of it.
“You’re not just voting for a woman if it’s Hillary because she’s a woman, but certainly because Trump has made it easy to see that you don’t really want that kind of world that he’s painting for us.”
Trump has oddly enough refrained from retaliation. During his ITV interview with Piers Morgan, Trump responded to Meghan’s previous comments about him by saying, “Well, I still hope they’re happy.”
Speculation that the meeting with the queen on July 13—and let it be noted that Windsor Castle is closed that day—is intended to include Harry and Meghan has been heightened by the fact the newlyweds have a scheduled trip to Dublin taking place on July 10 and 11, giving them a full day clear of other commitments to gather themselves ahead of the meeting with Trump, which is likely to take the shape of a Friday night drinks party or even dinner in Windsor.
The confirmation that Trump will meet the queen came via the U.S. ambassador in London, Robert Wood Johnson, who told Sky News, “He has to see the head of state. Putting his foot on British soil, it’s job one, it’s very important, very symbolic. Meeting Her Majesty is the most important thing, because she’s the head of state, and from then on, it’ll be what the president wants to do.”
Although the visit is being billed as a working visit as opposed to a full blown state visit (complete with banquets and military parades) the truth is that it is actually somewhere between the two.
Politically—and these visits are always carried out at the British government’s request—Britain desperately needs a stronger than ever relationship with America as it prepares to leave the European Union.
For this reason, there is no doubt the red carpet will be rolled out, but the fact it is not a state visit means there will be no easy focus for anti-Trump demonstrations.
Given the importance of the transatlantic relationship to the U.K. right now, and Trump’s proven capriciousness and thin skin, it would more or less be a dereliction of duty if Meghan and Harry were not lined up to shake his hand. He could easily take offense if he feels snubbed, and may indeed already be somewhat peeved by the fact that he is not getting the full state visit experience, like every other U.S. president before him has.
“She is American, he is American, so on the face of it that would be a reason in favor of making Meghan one of the party,” says a source with good contacts among the senior royal family. “It would be rather unusual if she was not included.”
But what of her previous shading of Trump? “It will be a test of her impartiality in her new role. Harry and William have close ties with Obama, but those now have to be set aside in interests of political expediency and, similarly, Meghan’s former life is behind her now. Whatever she might have said in personal capacity before is neither here nor there,” says the source.
The possibility that Meghan might be meeting Trump in a few week’s time would also make sense of the intense introduction she has had to royal life.
Meghan has participated in an extraordinary number of engagements since her engagement was announced, and last week she even had a cross-country sleepover with the queen on the royal train, where Her Majesty may well have imparted a few well-chosen words on the regal principle of apoliticism.
As Victoria Arbiter, the royal historian who grew up in Kensington Palace as her father, Dickie, was the senior royal press officer for a generation, said that while it is not a foregone conclusion that Meghan will be in the Donald Trump reception line, it’s clearly an opportunity for an educational experience.
“The queen seems keen to school Meghan herself, and so perhaps the visit would offer an opportunity for a lesson in soft diplomacy. Meghan is a bright young lady and she’s well aware of what's expected of her. She certainly wouldn't want to cause any controversy so I’m sure she could set aside her own beliefs in support of the queen,” said Arbiter.
Stig Abell, the author of the book How Britain Really Works, said that Harry and Meghan couldn’t be blamed if they suddenly found a compelling reason to be on the other side of the planet.
“I don’t think they will be there because they don’t have to be,” Abell said. “I regard them as PR people to their core. They are very aware of the semiotics of their behavior, and I can’t think of any way a picture of Harry and Meghan laughing with Trump would burnish their liberal credentials. Harry and Meghan may be the stars, but the queen has the rank, so Trump can hardly complain if they are not there.”
Indeed, while it’s understandable that there will be popular fascination with the Meghan-Trump dynamic, it should not be forgotten that the queen is the boss and, technically, main attraction.
Having exchanged civilities with everyone from Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu, she will no doubt take Donald Trump in her stride.
As far as the queen and Trump’s interactions are concerned, Abell argues it’s essentially one big damage limitation exercise. “He has to be given the invite, or it would be a snub, so for the queen, and her advisers, it’s now all about not putting her in situations where she can be embarrassed or her apolitical status seems to be challenged. The court will be very engaged in trying to manage Trump’s visit so that they don’t meet, for example, in front of crowds of people who might start booing him. Trump has shown he is thin-skinned so the other priority is to shield him from sharp British wit. How this trip becomes a disaster is if Trump goes home saying, ‘They treated me like shit and embarrassed me, and I hate Britain.’”
Avoiding all awareness of the strength of feeling against him may prove tricky.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to demonstrate in cities around the country. One of the biggest gatherings will be the “Together Against Trump” rally outside the BBC’s offices in central London. Organizers are urging protestors to book the day off work to protest Trump’s visit.
Whether or not Meghan and Harry will meet Trump remains, of course, to be seen.
If, however, a meeting does happen, one way to perhaps make it a little easier would be if Trump took his daughter Ivanka along for the ride. Meghan once got the younger Trump to do a questionnaire for her website, The Tig, and wrote: “When we have drinks, I will make sure I order whatever she does, because this woman seems to have the formula for success.”