The epigram that, “the United States and Great Britain are two nations separated by a common language,” is widely (though not conclusively) attributed to George Bernard Shaw. However it may have entered the language, this separation is seldom more in evidence than when the American half of the equation is represented by Donald Trump. Trump is scheduled to darken the door of (as Shakespeare really did – and aptly – put it) “this precious stone set in the silver sea,” in early June. No visiting American president has ever understood this nation of scholars, beer drinkers and football fans less well than Donald Trump.
Trump’s ignorance begins with his comical misapprehension of the differences between the United Kingdom, Britain and England. There is no shame in not knowing – surprisingly, many Brits get it wrong – unless you’re President of the United States. Then there’s simply no excuse for it. Briefly, “the United Kingdom” is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. “Britain” is the United Kingdom minus Northern Ireland. “England” is just, well, England. (Britain is sometimes referred to as “Great Britain.” This is not a boast, but part of a tradition stemming from Roman times, when it was so-called to differentiate it as the largest of the British Isles.)
When Trump meets with, among others, the outgoing Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, he will not be meeting, technically speaking, with his equal. Trump is a head of state, Mrs. May is not. Here the Queen is the head of state. That Mrs. May is Trump’s moral and intellectual superior is another matter. Besides, who isn’t?
As in America, Britons are not content to have merely one name for their most awful party. Much as the Republicans are sometimes referred to as the GOP, Conservatives are sometimes called “Tories.” A Tory is a Republican without religion. A Tory is an elitist pig who disdains all classes below him and is a secret bigot, just like Republicans, only he never uses God to justify his hatefulness. The good guys, the equivalent to the Democrats, are called the Labour Party.
Trump has many problems awaiting him when he comes here, apart from the fact that the vast majority of people on this island actively detest him. One big problem Trump has is that he is virulently hated by two of Britain’s most celebrated Royals, the two Princes William and Harry.
It would appear that their mother, Princess Diana, one of the most beloved humans ever to grace this sceptred isle, at one time was stalked by Donald Trump. She not infrequently referred to him as a creep. Trump sent her an alarming number of flowers a disturbing number of times.
Shortly after she was tragically killed in an idiotically preventable accident in 1997, Trump bragged to Howard Stern that he could have “nailed her” if he’d wanted to. He also bragged that she would still be alive if only she had dated him. He bragged that he knew that tunnel (where Diana’s car crashed) better than anybody, of course. He had been through that tunnel hundreds of times, of course. He’s the world’s leading expert on that tunnel, of course.
Harry and William are, for the most part, two fine and sensible lads who detest Donald Trump for all the usual reasons that we do. But as is so often the case with Trump, Trump has also found a way to make their hatred active and personal. Their detestation for him is as deeply visceral as any young lad’s or young girl’s would be toward a man who defamed their mother. It’s personal. The usual story from twenty two years ago, in the wake of the tragic death of the Princess of Wales, was no different from the usual story today. In the end it was all about Donald Trump. Everything, in the end, is all about Donald Trump.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.