In 1997, Bill Clinton blew off tea with the Queen so he could hang out & have fun


This is such silly gossip, but I enjoyed it. As we see behind the curtain more and more with the British royal family, we can see that it’s always been a clown show. These people were never good at their jobs and they were always the embodiment of white supremacy, colonialism and privilege. I sometimes wonder what it’s really like for elected leaders of other countries to be forced into meetings with Queen Elizabeth. I’m sure more than a few of them believe it’s all one big waste of time. Apparently, Bill Clinton blanked on Liz pretty hard back in 1997:

Former US President Bill Clinton declined offers of tea with Queen Elizabeth and dinner at the British Prime Minister’s official country house because he wanted to “be a tourist,” go shopping and eat Indian food during his first official visit to the UK with Tony Blair as leader in 1997, according to formerly classified documents.

Downing Street was “pulling out all the stops” to ensure Clinton’s May 1997 visit — made between trips to summits in The Hague and Paris — was a “public relations success,” according to memos between Dominick Chilcott, assistant private secretary to the foreign secretary, and John Holmes, Blair’s principal private secretary. The documents have been released by the UK’s National Archives.

Although the President and his wife, Hillary Clinton, were offered tea with Queen Elizabeth, they declined it in favor of other activities, a note from Blair’s private secretary, Phillip Barton, reveals.

“The Americans said that the President and Mrs. Clinton were very grateful for HM The Queen’s invitation to tea at the Palace, but would wish to decline politely,” he said in a May 21 briefing.

The documents detail attempts to confirm the ever-changing schedule for the presidential couple’s visit to the UK on May 29. At the time of the visit, Blair had just begun his 10-year tenure as UK Prime Minister, having been elected earlier that month. When asked what he would like to do after his speech, the note said that Clinton’s team had “no clear idea” — but that the President “wanted to be a tourist” and wanted to visit a garden and shops, and sample some Indian food with the Prime Minister, Barton wrote.

“The Americans were not attracted to our suggestion of a dinner at Chequers,” the note added. Chequers is the UK Prime Minister’s country retreat, based in Buckinghamshire, about 30 miles northwest of London. In the end, the group dined at Le Pont de la Tour, spending £265 ($360) on a meal that included halibut, salmon, sole and rabbit, according to receipts.

[From CNN]

Remember the Wikileaks dump of all of the diplomats’ emails to the State Dept? The American diplomats in the UK were always like “if I have to eat another f–king lamb dinner with stuffy British people, I will rip out my hair.” That’s what Clinton was trying to avoid – while it was his first visit to the UK during Blair’s tenure, Clinton had made state visits to the UK before then, when John Major was prime minister. Clinton was a president renowned for traveling well, much like Obama. They were both good on foreign visits, and they would build in time to do tourist-y things too (Clinton more than Obama). Anyway, knowing what we know now, I think it was a better use of Clinton’s time to blow off Chequers and the Queen (and Clinton and Blair became buds later on anyway).

HM QUEEN ELIZABETH IIwith BILL CLINTONPresident of the USAhis wife HILARY and daughter CHELSEA at Buckingham Palace in London during the Clintons' final Presidential visit to EuropeCOMPULSORY CREDIT: UPPA/Photoshot PhotoUM 017965/B   14.12.2000

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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17 Responses to “In 1997, Bill Clinton blew off tea with the Queen so he could hang out & have fun”

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  1. Amy Bee says:

    The Queen and the people around her really think they are superior and that everyone is so excited to meet and be around her. I can imagine when Meghan didn’t show enough deference to these people they were highly offended.

    • Ange says:

      Well it would have been protocol for them to invite him while in country, it’s not like the queen would have been sitting by the phone waiting for his call.

  2. Becks1 says:

    So Clinton had already met her, correct? So he just didn’t want to go to tea and instead wanted to see some of London? That seems reasonable to me. And actually it seems like something that the royal family could do – send someone out to show a visiting leader like Clinton some of the sites, rather than all these super planned out events. I know these visits are diplomatic and arent about playing tourist, but can’t you combine the two sometimes?

    I mean I would rather eat Indian food in London than have tea with the queen I think.

    • Amy Bee says:

      @Becks: The US Embassy would have had responsibility for making arrangements for his tourist activities. There would be no need for the Palace’s involvement.

      • Becks1 says:

        Sure, but if they still wanted the photo ops and wanted the image of the royals interacting with the visiting president, then it would make sense to send out someone to escort him around town, just for the PR aspect. Although maybe that was offered and he said no lol (who would they even have sent in 97? Andrew?)

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      That would be as tough call for me. I love Indian food, but I also love a good high tea. Can they be combined? Like high tea with chai instead of earl gray, and give me all the scones, but instead of cucumber sandwiches we could serve samosas? Now, I’m hungry…

    • FeedMeChips says:

      I’d pick palak paneer over TQ any day of the week.

    • Reece says:

      Yeah but do any of them actually know anything about London beyond the areas surrounding the palaces, if that.

  3. Grant says:

    Anyone who blows off (1) “protocol” and (2) meeting that racist, inbred old biddy is #1 in my book!

    • Eleonor says:

      Mine too! Only because imagining the courtriers clutching their pearls and pursing their lips is too fun!

  4. Chaine says:

    Seeing the words “Bill Clinton” and “blew off” in the same headline made me think this post was going to be about some entirely different vintage gossip.

  5. iconoclast59 says:

    Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar and went to Oxford after completing his undergrad at Georgetown. IIRC, he took some time to show HIllary and Chelsea around the town and campus, though that probably happened on his trip in 1994 when Oxford gave him an honorary degree. Regardless, he spent 2 years in the UK and probably wanted to pop by old friends and haunts.

  6. Mina_Esq says:

    I love this story. I’m picturing all the courtiers’ heads exploding in disbelief.

  7. AnneSurely says:

    Now this is how you boss communications. Is Clinton a gross perv? Absolutely. Is this how a leader asserts dominance while maintaining diplomatic relations? Absolutely.

  8. SarahCS says:

    If that’s your thing then a good high tea is a wonderful experience but I’d rather do that with family and friends at one of the big hotels than with TQ where you just know the butlers are judging the gauche Americans for stirring their tea clockwise instead of counter-clockwise or some other nonsense.

  9. WTF says:

    This is hilarious. I don’t blame him a bit. I think doing anything with her must be a lot of work. Mind your p’s and q’s. PR bombs around every scone. Not to mention the Clintons were already dealing with the image that they were a bunch of country bumpkins