Obamas wrap up second day in U.K. at a state dinner with the Queen.
Pool report 11:
President Obama arrived at 10 Downing St at 3:40pm for a courtesy visit with Prime Minister Cameron and his wife.
No speaking to the media staked outside, just waves and smiles. About a dozen Islamic protesters across the street could be heard during the outdoor photo op. More on them below.
Cameron and his wife greeted the Obamas as they emerged from the presidential limo. Everyone exchanged 2 kisses on the cheek, except POTUS and Cameron, who shook hands.
They stood in front of No. 10 – FLOTUS, Cameron, POTUS, Mrs. Cameron – posing for the cameras. The British photogs did their yelling for the couples to face them “over here” to the left and “over here” to the right. The four of them obliged. POTUS and Cameron chatted briefly and then everyone went inside.
At 4:01pm POTUS and Cameron emerged without their wives and left in the president’s limo.
The protesters chanted things your pooler couldn’t make out. One had a bullhorn. At one point it sounded like they were saying “Obama go to hell,” which another person along for the photo op also thought they were saying, but can’t be sure.
They carried signs, some of which seemed related to Osama bin Laden and perhaps the detainment of his wives (one of the signs had an image of a woman). Some sign samples:
“Islam will dominate the world”
“Shariah for America”
“Jihad will continue until judgment day”
There was another sign with Obama’s name on it but your pooler couldn’t decipher it.
Pool Report 9:
The president went straight from Westminster to 10 Downing. The pool is holding in the bus during this meeting.
A note about the crowds along the motorcade route throughout London today: most of the route is lined with people, sometimes standing two or three deep. Outside Buckingham Palace, hundreds of people gathered to wave at the motorcade. On the street in front of Westminster Abbey, some people were holding a full-sized American flag stretched across the barricade.
Pool Report 8:
At Westminster Abbey, the president lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. Pool was not able to see this but could hear a man, presumably a priest, saying prayers, and a choir singing.
The president then processed out, talking with the dean of Westminster.
He saw the poet’s corner, where Chaucer is buried.
Mrs. Obama was wearing a somber purple dress.
Pool could not hear the president but watched as he looked at the markers commemorating the writers and artists.
Chief of Staff Bill Daley followed for a while but the full party did not join the president and dean at poet’s corner.
Pool Report 7:
A large crowd awaited the Obamas on the opposite side of the road from the Abbey outside the Methodist Central Hall, as the chimes of Big Ben wafted on the breeze.
The President and the first lady smiled as they walked towards the front of the Abbey after waving to the crowd and were greeted with a warm handshake by the Dean of Westminster the Very Reverend John Hall.
They walked directly under a stone statue of Martin Luther King, which was unveiled above the door in 1998.
The first couple went through the Great West Door into the Abbey, where they would cross a memorial to wartime prime minister Winston Churchill set into the floor before approaching the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior which was surrounded by poppies — the traditional British symbol of remembrance harking back to the bloodstained Flanders fields of World War I.
The tomb holds the remains of an unidentified soldier who died in the Great War, but has come to symbolize all of Britain’s war dead.
The unknown warrior’s body was brought from France and buried on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920. The site is now one of the most visited war graves in the world.
The former Kate Middleton had her green and white wedding bouquet placed on the grave last month in line with royal tradition.
The late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother initiated the ritual when she left flowers from her wedding to the future King George VI in 1923 on the grave, in memory of her brother Fergus, killed in 1915.
Among those seen entering the Abbey were Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador to Washington.
In one odd touch, some kind of amateur comedian with a megaphone took it upon himself to warm up the crowd before the Obamas drove up and continued during their walk to the Abbey doors and after they had gone in.
A sample of the unseen comic’s repertoire.
“Does anybody here speak English?”
“Does anybody know what Barack Obama had for lunch?”
“I do apologize for the anti climax ladies and gentlemen,” he said after the First Couple walked in.
The man then criticized the crowd for showing up to watch a car arrive, and said that the crowd would make
Obama “think he is more important than you …….which in your case Madam happens to be true.”
That quip might have been enough for the police as his megaphone immediately went quiet.
Handing over to the inside pool.
Pool Report 6
Buckingham Palace, tour of print collection
After lunch, the Obamas toured the portrait gallery with the queen and duke, reviewing pieces from the palace collection laid out for them.
The president lingered over a page from the personal journal of George III, dating sometime around 1783.
“America is lost!” the king wrote, then going on to muse about the possibilities of trade with the Americans and the importance of “a future friendship and connection.”
There was also a copy of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” given to Queen Victoria in 1852, along with the two copies she gave to Prince Albert in 1853.
Conducting the tour was Hon. Lady Jane Roberts, librarian and curator of the print materials, water colors and drawings.
The four looked at a photograph of the HMS Resolute, timbers from which were used to make the desk in the Oval Office. (Short story: this lost ship was found by the US in the 1850s and returned to the Brits, and they later made a desk of it for the president.)
“We got a pretty good deal out of that,” the president said.
Pool report 3b:
A palace spokesman, who by protocol is not identified, briefed the pool off to the side of the ceremony.
Some of this may overlap with other pool reports since Christi Parsons and I were in different positions on the lawn.
Here is a description of the ceremony of welcome on the gardens of Buckingham Palace, according to the spokesman:
The Scots Guards assembled in two lines, and the Band, Pipes and Drums of Scots Guards played behind them.
As Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip accompanied the Obamas onto the West Terrace, the gun salute started. There were 41 shots fired – 21 for a royal event and 20 extra because it was in a royal park. Another 62 shots were fired at the Tower of London – the extra 21 because it was done in the City of London. (The palace is not in the City of London, but Westminster, although it is still in London. Kinda like a city within a county, but not really.)
The American national anthem was played. (The British national anthem will be played at dinner.)
The Prince and the president then walked onto to the lawn to inspect the Guard, accompanied by a colonel. They walked down the front line – the president first, followed by the prince. The president appeared to be talking with the colonel.
(Side note: The gardens are the site of the Queen’s three summer garden parties each year that attract thousands of visitors.)
Immediately after the ceremony, the Queen and Prince Philip will host the First Couple at a private lunch with 50-60 palace personnel.
Prince William and Catherine are not staying for lunch. They had other plans, the spokesman said. And they won’t attend the dinner tonight.
“They ordinarily don’t go to state dinners,” the spokesman said.
The dinner guest list will total 170.
The spokesman said the Queen has been intimately involved in the planning of the state visit. There are only two state visits a year.
“Very warm words have been spoken between the royal family and the Obamas,” he said. “There is a genuine, genuine – and I really mean this – a genuine warmth between the two families.”
Pool Report 3
Shortly before noon, the Obamas met with Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who, per protocol of a British state visit, are charged with officially welcoming the first couple to London.
The royals paid their visit at Winfield House, the US ambassador’s residence, where the Obamas are staying. Outside waited the president’s car (flying an American flag on one side and the British flag on the other) next to the royals’ burgundy Rolls Royce.
The pool was able to see the foursome as they left Winfield for Buckingham Palace.
The president and prince emerged, chatting as they walked, and their wives followed in a pair behind them. They all climbed into the Beast to travel to Buckingham Palace.
Before the Prince and Duchess arrived at Winfield House, POTUS spoke with Gov. Nixon to get an update about tornado devastation, according to WH staff. The two also discussed Obama’s Sunday trip to Missouri.