Meghan Markle Prince Harry engagement photograph Kensington Palace 2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pose for photographs in the grounds of Kensington Palace in London after their engagement announcement. (Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images)

The royal family has a big problem: U.S. President Donald Trump.

There are two upcoming events in 2018 sure to test the famed diplomatic skills of Buckingham Palace’s courtiers. Their most pressing problem is the upcoming wedding, especially given the date of that other event, the state visit of Trump to Britain, hasn’t been set.

On May 19, Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Their nuptials may technically be a “private” family event but it’s going to be the highest-profile event in Britain this year. Brand Finance estimates it will boost the economy by US$500 million as tourists flock to the nation.

Everyone who is anyone is clamouring for an invitation, yet, with the chapel’s capacity of less than 800, most will have settle for watching the happy couple on television. Even the public will struggle for first-hand vantage points. The chapel is located inside the ramparts of Windsor Castle, meaning that, unless Harry and Meghan go for a carriage ride through the town of Windsor, only those lucky enough to win tickets through a lottery for the right to stand near the chapel will see the royal couple in their wedding finery. If Prince Edward and Sophie’s wedding in 1999 is any indication, that’s around 8,000 people.

Meghan Markle Prince Harry engagement wedding Nottingham Donald Trump

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Nottingham on Dec. 1, 2017 (Photo by Mark Cuthbert)

WHO LIKELY WON’T GET INVITED TO THE ROYAL WEDDING

Harry and Meghan’s wedding isn’t a state occasion, unlike that of his parents (because Prince Charles is heir to the throne.) Harry is fifth in line to the throne, and will fall to sixth when big brother, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, have their third child in April. That gives the couple the opportunity to create a wedding that fits with their personalities and wishes. So, unlike the weddings of Charles and Diana as well as William and Kate’s, royal watchers expect to see few diplomats and dignitaries, with family and friends occupying the vast majority of the seats. That means Donald Trump is unlikely to be invited, at least as a head of state.

DOES DONALD TRUMP WANT AN INVITATION?

That’s unclear. Michael Wolff, who wrote Fire and Fury, a devastating critique of the Trump White House says he wants an invitation. “He doesn’t like being snubbed and wants to be the centre of attention all the time,’ Wolff told the Daily Mail. “’Trump’s foreign policy doctrine is simple: you Brits suck up to him and enlist in whatever geopolitical fantasy he has going, he’ll give you what you want—though only if it doesn’t hurt him. It is not so much vengeance, rather ‘you flatter me and I’ll flatter you.’ ”

Still, he doesn’t like hearing boos, something all but guaranteed if he were to go to Britain. He reportedly cancelled opening the new American Embassy in London because he wants adoring crowds, not the expected huge, angry demonstrations.

But there is one thing that interests Trump: stopping his predecessor, Barack Obama, from going. (Meghan Markle called Trump “divisive” and “misogynistic” in 2016.)

WHY BARACK AND MICHELLE OBAMA ARE LIKELY GUESTS

One of those friends is former U.S. president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. They’ve known Harry for years. After videos challenging each other’s teams (including one in which Queen Elizabeth II took part), Michelle was beside him at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla., while Barack took in events with Harry at the Toronto games (and former vice-president Joe Biden and his wife, Jill). In October, Harry flew to Chicago to take part in an Obama Foundation summit. And, in December, Harry scored the first public interview with Obama after he left office.

A British government source told the Express newspaper, “Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness.”

WHY OBAMA’S INVITATION WILL INFURIATE TRUMP

Donald Trump has spent the last year reversing Obama policies on everything from accidental bird deaths by businesses to his foreign policy on Iran. He continues to promote the false myth that Obama was born outside the U.S. and thus wasn’t qualified to be president. If Obama says one thing, then Trump does the opposite.

As columnist Charles Blow wrote in the New York Times, “Trump is constantly whining about not being sufficiently applauded, commended, thanked, liked. His emotional injury is measured in his mind against Obama. How could Obama have been so celebrated while he is so reviled?”

So, if Obama gets an invitation (and media attention), then, if previous Trump reactions are any indication, he’s unlikely to stay silent for long. It won’t help to explain that Trump isn’t being invited as head of state, he won’t want Obama to go. Lashing out is his modus operandi.

If the past is any indication, he will do anything he can to stop the former president from going. Call it spite, call it jealousy, call it the spoils of the victor (yes, I know Obama wasn’t running for election). He won’t be overshadowed by the former president. As Blow explained, “Donald Trump has a thing about Barack Obama. Trump is obsessed with Obama. Obama haunts Trump’s dreams. One of Trump’s primary motivators is the absolute erasure of Obama—were it possible—not only from the political landscape but also from the history books.”

For instance, when Trump cancelled his embassy-opening visit, he blamed Obama for selling the old embassy cheaply. Yet the process was actually started by George W. Bush, and the United States got so much for the old building, as well as by selling other properties in Britain, that it paid for building a new, state-of-the-art embassy.


WHY IS DONALD TRUMP’S MOOD A PROBLEM FOR BRITAIN?

Why should Harry and Meghan have to consider the reaction of a foreign leader? Isn’t this their wedding? Can’t they invite whomever they want?

In a word: no.

Prince Harry is a full-time member of the royal family. A senior member of the royal family. And the Queen’s family represents the nation. That means Harry and Meghan’s guest list doesn’t just concern the royal family, but the government as well.

And Britain is in a bind. It is about to endure what could be a “hard exit” from the European Union. The economy is already struggling. Britain desperately needs post-Brexit trade deals to replace what is about to be lost in Europe. Britain needs a trade deal with the United States. They need good relations with America. And that means dealing with a prickly Donald Trump.

That’s a reason why Theresa May was one of the first foreign leaders after Trump came to power. And immediately offered him a glittering state visit to Britain, to be hosted by the Queen and the royal family. But that’s on hold right now as they try to figure out how to give him the visit he wants without those pesky, loud demonstrators. The only guaranteed big royal event this year is the royal wedding.

Would he refuse to negotiate a trade deal if the Obamas get an invitation and he doesn’t? Michael Wolff says yes. 

IS THERE A SOLUTION?

Step on up, Melania Trump. She met Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Toronto and sat beside him at the opening ceremony. She could be Donald Trump’s proxy at the wedding.

If she’s invited because of that connection, then, possibly, just possibly, that could be enough to placate her husband, especially if the Obamas are invited.  If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle don’t want Donald Trump at the wedding but want to invite the Obamas, then it’s a fair bet that those famed diplomatic courtiers at the Buckingham Palace are proposing this compromise as a possible alternative.