“England,” said Roy Strong, “is the last ancien regime.” President Trump visited three visible proofs over this weekend. Blenheim Palace was built by a grateful nation to commemorate a day which dawned on France as the greatest military power in Europe and ended with the French commander in Marlborough’s coach together with two other generals. The tavern bill on which Marlborough scrawled the news of the victory—as a letter to Sarah Churchill—is kept as a treasured relic in Blenheim Palace. The president was greeted by a guard of honor in the immense forecourt as he arrived, bathed in the soft glow of a perfect summer evening.
Next day to Chequers, the country seat of the Prime Minister; it is never open to the public. The story goes that when David Cameron became Prime Minister, he invited Angela Merkel to visit. She admired the old Tudor pile, with its green land stretching towards the rolling Chiltern Hills. “Just think, Angela,” said David, “if things had gone differently, all this could have been yours.” Her response is not recorded.
And so to Windsor, and the Queen, greeted before a parade of the Coldstream Guards. Windsor is ideally memorialized by Shakespeare, in the final scene of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” The Queen of Fairies utters her invocation to Windsor Castle, with its paean to chivalry and “honi soit qui mal y pense.” It is the play’s climax of location, Queen Elizabeth and castle coming together. The drama widens to become a homage to Queen and castle, monarch and realm. The glamor of the ancien regime will not have been lost upon the president.
Ralph Berry writes from England.