- State visits are an important tradition in the US, and follow a strict protocol.
- Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is currently hosting French president Emmanuel Macron for a state visit.
- It’s the first state visit that Trump has ever handled.
- So far, observers have commented on the apparent “bromance” between the two presidents, as well as the strange moment when Trump made a point of brushing dandruff from Macron’s shoulder.
- Here’s a look back at some notable and opulent state visits across history.
US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania are currently hosting French president Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.
It’s the first state visit that Trump’s hosted. So far, it’s involved glowing speeches, policy disagreements, a growing “bromance,” possibly coordinated outfits, and a tour of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
But the mere presence of a world leader in the US does not a state visit make. Business Insider’s Ellen Cranley reported that, technically, a state visit must include “a full-honours arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House with a 21-gun salute, a state luncheon at the US State Department, and a White House state dinner.”
Here’s a look back at some memorable state visits from years past, which featured famous guests, sumptuous dining, and trips around America:
The King of Hawaii was the first leader to make a state visit to the United States
The first US state visit didn’t happen until the Grant administration.
On December 12, 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant held a dinner in honour of King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii, who had first arrived in San Francisco and then taken the Transcontinental Railway to DC.
The Washington Post reported that Grant and his wife Julia threw the king an opulent soiree complete with with $US3,000 china.
Grand Duchess Charlotte attended a fancy Elizabethan banquet with the Kennedys
To commemorate the 1963 state visit of Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy pulled out all the stops.
The state dinner featured “Sherlock Holmes” actor Basil Rathbone and Consort Players of New York reciting the works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Donne, and Robert Herrick.
President John F. Kennedy also requested that Rathbone recite “The Battle of Agincourt” from “Henry V,” and the actor reportedly acquiesced, according to The New York Times.
The Duchess, who was the longest-reigning European monarch at the time, also visited Philadelphia, Chicago, Cape Canaveral, and New York on her trip.
Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was honored at the last state visit of the Kennedy administration
Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie’s state visit occurred from September 30 – October 7, 1963.
The American Menu blog reported that Selassie, the Kennedys, and their guests were served roast beef sirloin, string beans with almonds, and green salad.
The First Lady joined her husband to greet Selassie at Union Station in DC. But, according to The American Menu, she was still grieving the death of her infant son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, and left the state dinner early to go on a cruise with her sister Lee Radziwell on the yacht of Aristotle Onassis, her future second husband.
Selassie would be the last international figure to be honored with a state visit during the Kennedy administration. President Kennedy was assassinated a little over a month later, on November 22, 1963.
Queen Beatrix’s visit was marked with special fireworks
Beatrix of the Netherlands was feted by President Ronald Reagan during her April 1982 state visit. Beatrix was then the brand-new queen of the Netherlands, having inherited the throne after her mother’s 1980 abdication.
Her visit coincided with the the Dutch Republic’s 1782 decision to recognise the US as a country.
“Today marks the 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries,” Reagan said in a speech. “We’re delighted that you honour us with your visit, Your Majesty, a visit that coincides with this historic occasion.”
The Washington Post reported that the monarch visited Philadelphia, New Haven, and New York, and featured a special fireworks display shaped like a “blooming tulip.”
Ronald Reagan had to retire early from Chinese president Li Xiannian’s state dinner
In 1984, Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan visited China.
In July of the following year, Chinese president Li Xiannian and his wife Lin Jiamei returned the favour, visiting DC, as well as Chicago, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Niagra Falls.
The White House Historical Association reported that Reagan had just undergone intestinal surgery ten days earlier.
“President Li… told me that once I was totally back on my feet, a young man like myself could expect to have a long and distinguished career ahead of him,” Reagan said during his speech.
The state dinner featured lobster, veal, and lime sabayon, but Reagan retired after toasting Li.
The First Lady and Lin Jainei stayed behind to enjoy the entertainment from Metropolitan Opera singers and mingle with A-list guests like Liz Taylor, Mary Lou Retton, and Walter Cronkite, UPI reported.
Russian president Boris Yeltsin reportedly was found outside in his underpants during his state visit
Russian president Boris Yeltsin’s September 1994 state visit involved some post-Cold War antics.
The Washington Post reported the Russian politician got “roaring drunk” in the Blair House and kept “lurching from room to room in his undershorts” while screaming for pizza.
At some point, Yeltsin reportedly managed to escape outside, where Secret Service agents were able to apprehend him, Politico reported.
But the two presidents reportedly got along quite well.
“Our steadfastness and courage in the face of difficult odds have inspired millions of Americans,” President Bill Clinton said of Yeltsin in his remarks. “And you have proved the pessimists wrong. Far from falling backward, Russia, under your leadership, is coming together and moving forward.”
Queen Elizabeth II visited the US to commemorate the first English colony in North America
In 2007, Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Virginia to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
In addition to DC, she swung around Virginia, stopping in Richmond, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and then heading to Louisville to attend the Kentucky Derby.
“Half a century has done nothing to diminish the respect and affection this country holds for you,” US vice president Dick Cheney said in a speech given at Jamestown, according to NBC. “We receive you again today in that same spirit.”
It wasn’t the UK monarch’s first trip to Virginia. She had previously attended ceremonies for the 350th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in 1957, visiting Jamestown and Williamsburg, as well as DC and New York City. She’s been on six state visits to the US, in total.
“My visits to Jamestown and Williamsburg, separated by 50 years, symbolise for me the warmth and welcome Prince Philip and I have always received during our many visits to the United States over the years,” she said, NBC reported.
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