Downing Street went out of its way to ensure that Clinton’s May 1997 visit — between trips to the Hague and Paris summits — would be a “public relations success,” according to memos between Assistant Secretary of State Dominick Chilcott of the Secretary of State, and John Holmes, Blair’s chief private secretary.
The documents have been released by the British National Archives.
Although the president and his wife, Hillary Clinton, were offered tea with Queen Elizabeth, they refused to engage in 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 come and have tea at the palace, but would politely decline,” he said at a May 21 briefing.
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 that month.
When asked what he would like to do after his speech, the note said that Clinton’s team had “no clear idea” but that the president wanted to “become a tourist” and visit a garden and shops and have some Indian food with the prime minister, Barton wrote.
“The Americans were not attracted to our suggestion of dinner at Checkers,” the note added. Checkers is the British Prime Minister’s country residence, located in Buckinghamshire, about 50 kilometers northwest of London.
In the end, the group dined at Le Pont de la Tour and, according to the receipts, spent £265 ($360) on a meal of halibut, salmon, sole and rabbit.