If there was “great love all around” during President Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom, as he tweeted Monday, the participants royal and decidedly otherwise were deceptively discreet.
From the coverage, one might have thought that Madame Tussauds had teamed up with George Lucas to create a charade parade of mechanized wax figures. What a crew of dour sourpusses they were.
But then, what would one expect when New York’s most-famous hillbilly drags his entire entourage to sup at the sumptuous table of the Queen of England as though word had leaked of an all-you-can-eat buffet and free booze over at Lizzie’s Eatery? Donald Trump may have plenty of dough and houses dripping with gold, but his money has that new smell, and his crass behavior is testament to the adage — and more recently Countess Luann de Lesseps’ song — “Money can’t buy you class.” To which I would only add, “honey.”
The countess should know. Marrying royalty won’t get you there, either, apparently. But then, Luann, as in “The Real Housewives of New York City,” perhaps was being ironic.
Queen Elizabeth, as in The Crown, was born to class, of course, and has spent her royal career marinating in irony. As a descendant of generations of royals, she epitomizes the definition of proper behavior, rarely displaying emotion or affection, always stoic in the face of adversity. A far cry is she from the effluvious Donald and his bloviating histrionics. But there she was playing sober hostess to a reality-show president and his carnivalesque courtiers.
The queen has seen it all: Her married son, Charles, galivanting with his then-lover-now-wife Camilla whilst married to the fair Princess Diana; the “people’s princess” shedding crocodile tears for television cameras while sharing her miseries and family secrets; her grandson wedding an American actress who, in an apparent act of defiance, declined to attend the state banquet.
Not even Monday evening’s strawberry sable with lemon verbena cream dessert could be richer than that.
’Tis a shame, because Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex, surely would have brought a smile to the Buckingham Palace proceedings. Instead, we saw mostly waxen, strained faces in the dinner procession of mismatched royals and American hirelings. Most expressions suggested that a hair shirt was concealed beneath their finery. There was the queen with The Don. Prince Edward, the queen’s first cousin, marched dutifully alongside Kellyanne Conway, bedecked in silver sequins and affecting a royal air her weary-eyed escort would be loath to approximate.
Princess Anne, the queen’s daughter, walked with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who, in one frame, seemed to be trying to convince her that she was lucky. I’m a prince, you know, did you know that?, I thought he was saying. Then again, lip-reading is second only to my snake-handling skills. Poor Countess Peel, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, got stuck with Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, whom she seemed to be trying to ignore. As do we all, Countess, as do we all.
Bringing up the rear were first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff Lindsay Reynolds and press secretary Stephanie Grisham, escorted, respectively, by Philip May (husband of outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May) and a kilted Michael Gove, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs. Oh, and Dan Scavino was there! You know, Dan, the White House director of social media? How could the president attend a royal banquet without his social media guy? He was fortunately paired with a smiling Kathryn Parsons, co-CEO of a high-tech start-up. They may have been the happiest dinner guests that night.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders also stood out from the crowd, smiling in her crimson gown, clearly enjoying herself more than her staid partner, another titled first cousin of the queen. My favorite visual, however, was U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and his muscular mustache paired with Viscountess Brookeborough, who looked as though something most unpleasant had reached her nostrils.
Yes, of course, I’m envious. And, yet, the whole affair felt tawdry and cheap, joyless and stilted beyond the usual norms of pomp and circumstance. The queen must have wondered, did Trump raffle off tickets? Who are these people? Fair question.
Money can’t buy you class, but it can sure buy loyalty. Trump’s court at the palace was essentially his family and the few remaining White House staffers still willing to tell the president that, indeed, his exposed derriere is absolutely rocking raiment of finest silk and gold. The fake news, of course, are unable to see.
Parker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post. Email her at email@example.com.