LONDON – Britain rolled out the red carpet Monday as President Donald Trump began a three-day, spectacle-laden state visit that kicked off with a rare welcoming ceremony, private lunch and dinner banquet with Queen Elizabeth II.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump also had tea with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, at their sprawling, garden-filled London residence, Clarence House. Tuesday, Trump will hold discussions on trade, security and defense with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May.
A state visit is one of the highest honors the U.K. government can bestow on a foreign leader. Only two American presidents besides Trump have received one during Elizabeth's reign: George W. Bush in 2003 and Barack Obama in 2011.
State visits are highly ritualized affairs involving all the tools of pomp and ceremony the British monarchy has developed over hundreds of years.
The "entire Royal Family" has been "fantastic," and the relationship between the United States and Britain is "very strong," Trump tweeted Monday evening before the banquet.
The trip did not get off to the smoothest start. Minutes before arriving in Britain, the president blasted London Mayor Sadiq Khan as a "stone cold loser."
Trump made the comments aboard Air Force One after Khan, with whom Trump has a long-standing feud, described Trump on Sunday as "one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat." Khan compared the language Trump has used in tweets and speeches to words used by "fascists of the 20th century."
Trump's U.K. visit: What you need to know, from royal ceremony to protests
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Trump tweeted that Khan was "very dumb and incompetent" and compared him to Bill de Blasio, New York City's mayor – "only half his height."
Khan is an ex-human rights lawyer and son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver. He has sparred publicly with Trump on several occasions, in particular over the president’s temporary Muslim travel ban and Trump's characterization of the mayor as "pathetic" for seeking to reassure Londoners they had "no reason to be alarmed" over the London Bridge terrorist attacks that killed eight people in 2017. Khan lobbied the U.K. government to cancel the state visit because of Trump's rhetoric.
"One of the great things about having a special relationship is that you stand shoulder to shoulder in times of adversity and provide assistance and help, but it also means saying to your best mates when you think that he or she is wrong," Khan told USA TODAY in an interview last year, attempting to downplay his feud with Trump.
In a tweet, De Blasio said he considered any comparison to Khan a compliment.
The Trumps were given a tour of the royal family's private art collection and visited Westminster Abbey, where Trump laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War.
Wednesday, the Trumps will participate in commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. They will also travel to Ireland and France this week.
The U.S. national anthem played as the Trumps arrived at Buckingham Palace, where they were first greeted by Charles and Camilla, then escorted to a terrace on the palace's west wing, where they met the queen. A gun salute to honor Trump's state visit could be heard from nearby Green Park, and Trump inspected the queen's Honor Guard as the U.K.'s national anthem played.
Trump greeted the queen with a handshake, and she gave him a big smile.
The queen gave Trump, as a gift, a first edition of Prime Minister Winston Churchill's book "The Second World War." He was also given a pen set decorated with an emblem made exclusively for the monarch.
British media reported that the dress code for the banquet dinner, which has required days of preparation, is "tiaras and white tie." The guests will eat from priceless dinner sets, and their plates will be placed exactly 18 inches apart. Each guest will have six glasses: for water, a champagne toast, red and white wines, dessert wine and port. The queen and Trump are likely to give short speeches while no media are present.
Britain and the United States have a close relationship forged through two World Wars, the Cold War, joint security concerns in the Middle East, cooperation fighting international terrorism and deep economic and cultural ties. In 2018, the countries traded more than $260 billion in goods and services, according to the White House.
Trump's three-day visit may highlight areas where there is disagreement.
Brexit: Trump expressed his support for Nigel Farage, a like-minded politician who he said should be involved in Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union. The British government asked the two men not to hold an official meeting.
China: Washington calls Chinese telecom giant Huawei a massive national security threat; London has a more relaxed view. U.S. officials have warned that this difference of opinion could threaten intelligence cooperation.
Middle East: The British government says Trump is wrong to have abandoned the nuclear deal reached by Iran and world powers in 2015. British officials have expressed skepticism over Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner's soon-to-be announced peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Global accords: Britain objects to Trump's withdrawal from multilateral agreements aimed at curbing climate change and Iran's nuclear facilities.
When Trump meets with May on Tuesday, up to 250,000 anti-Trump demonstrators are expected along the route between London's Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square. There will be protests in other cities from Belfast to Birmingham.
Phillip Butah, a painter wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap outside Buckingham Palace, said Trump was doing the opposite of what his critics accuse him of: "He's bringing everyone together," the British national said.
"He makes us feel that we don't need to be ashamed for sticking up for who we are," said David Quinn, a DJ who accompanied Butah, also in a distinctive red cap.
A royal affair: What to expect during Queen Elizabeth's visit with the Trumps
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump starts UK state visit with war of words, calling London mayor 'stone cold loser'