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Monday, September 25, 2023

When Bill Clinton declined the Queen’s tea invitation to try Indian food during 1997 UK visit

In May 1997, Bill Clinton had paid his first official visit to the UK. At that time, prime minister Tony Blair’s office wanted to make sure the then US President made all the important visits crucial to “establishing a good working relationship”.

During the visit, Buckingham Palace contacted No 10 to say “the Queen would be very pleased” to invite the Clintons for tea at 5 pm on their one-day detour from summits in Paris and The Hague, according to The Guardian, based on formerly classified documents.

The Clintons, however, said they “wish to decline politely” even though they were “very grateful”, recorded Blair’s private secretary Philip Barton.

As per a Downing Street briefing note released by the National Archives, Clinton wanted to go shopping just as a “tourist”; he also “expressed an interest in trying Indian food”.

While the Clintons wanted a “fun” and “photogenic” outside event, the tour prepared by the foreign office included a lunchtime jamming session “for the president (saxophone) and the prime minister (guitar) to play together briefly…” The other suggestion was “look in a pub (the Americans like them)”.

The Clintons, however, finally had dinner with the Blairs at the French Restaurant Le Pont de la Tour near Tower Bridge, whose £298.86 invoice shows the couples ate grilled sole, halibut, wild salmon and rabbit.

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