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Bill Clinton refused tea with the Queen for “being a tourist” and eating Indian food

Downing Street was “doing everything possible” to ensure that Clinton’s May 1997 visit – between trips to the summits in The Hague and Paris – was a “public relations success,” according to memos between Dominick Chilcott, Deputy Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, and John Holmes, Blair’s Principal Private Secretary.

The documents were published by the National Archives of the United Kingdom.

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

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

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 started his 10-year term as UK Prime Minister, having been elected earlier this month.

When asked what he would like to do after his speech, the note said the Clinton team had “no clear idea” – but the president “wanted to be a tourist” and wanted to visit a garden and shopping, and sample food with the Prime Minister, Barton wrote.

“Americans weren’t drawn to our suggestion for dinner at Checkers,” the note added. Checkers is the British Prime Minister’s country retreat, based in Buckinghamshire, about 30 miles northwest of London.

In the end, the group dined at Pont de la Tour, spending £ 265 ($ 360) on a meal that included halibut, salmon, sole and rabbit, according to receipts.


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