The Palaces, The Queen, And Our President

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for June 6, 2019, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

One of the things I have learned from teaching a college course in British literature for many years is an understanding and appreciation of the United Kingdom. You have to know the people, places, and traditions of England, Scotland, Ireland, etc., to understand their poetry and prose. When you immerse yourself in British culture and history, you cannot help but become somewhat of an Anglophile. On the day I am writing this, President Donald Trump is making an official State visit to the United Kingdom, his helicopter having landed on the lawn of Buckingham Palace in London about six or seven hours ago.

            President Trump’s official visit with the Queen of England and the Prime Minister today re-emphasizes the powerful and long bond between the United States and the United Kingdom. American roots are deep into British roots. President Donald Trump’s ancestors came to the United States from Scotland. President George W. Bush is the 17th cousin of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. My wife’s ancestors came from Ireland, as did President Ronald Reagan’s and President John F. Kennedy’s. My ancestors came from Germany, but like most Americans, I feel a strong bond with England.

            President and Mrs. Trump have by now had lunch with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and the Duchess of Cornwell in Buckingham Palace. Considering the time difference, they are probably at this moment, along with Trump family members, and the Queen’s son and grandsons, participating in an official State Banquet in the Palace. Our President was earlier greeted with an 82-gun salute.

            Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip (who has retired from public life) have two official residences: one is Buckingham Palace in London; the other in Windsor Castle in Windsor, Berkshire, England. Both residences are often the location for official State dinners and other special occasions. The Queen privately owns Balmoral Castle in Aberdeanshire, Scotland, and Sandringham House in Sandringham, Norfolk, England, as well as several other estates. Americans often wonder who pays for these State functions at the official palaces, involving heads of State from other countries.

            The Queen of England receives “a Sovereign Grant” from the British government, — basically an expense account which covers the cost of the royal family’s official travels, security for them, and staff and upkeep of official royal palaces. I don’t think this is coming out of the English tax-payer’s pocket, because the Sovereign Grant is made up of money generated from income from the Royal Estates (most of which goes into the Sovereign Grant and only a small portion to the Monarch). If I understand all of this correctly (which I probably don’t), President Trump is probably wealthier than Her Majesty the Queen.

            The surname for the British royal family is “Windsor.” Queen Elizabeth’s husband is called “Prince” Philip, because, as a descendant of a Greek monarch, he cannot be designated as “King” of England, so his official title is Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. Prince Philip’s surname is “Mountbatten,” which explains why the surname for Prince Harry and Meghan’s baby is “Windsor-Mountbatten.” It was not until 1957 that Philip was officially designated a British prince. Some ancient rule decrees that British royal children cannot be named “Mountbatten,” unless their parents decline royal titles. Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan were able to name their child “Windsor-Mountbatten” because they chose that their children not have royal titles.

            Tomorrow, President Trump will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May at her office on Downing Street, with a business breakfast at St. James Palace, in spite of the face that Prime Minister May has resigned and her last day as PM is June 6. St. James Palace is no longer the official residence of the Queen, but is used more for the affairs of the United Kingdom, housing a number of official offices, and, I think a few members of the royal family live there, such as the daughters of the Duke of York.

            On his final day, the President will participate in a celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth, led by the Queen and more than 300 D-Day veterans. This final ceremony underscores the powerful and deep relationship the United States has with the United Kingdom, and this is an official visit that reaffirms the relationship.


 Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and author of It Must Be the Noodles.

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