Documents that were just declassified this week show that back in 1997, then-President Bill Clinton snubbed Queen Elizabeth and rejected her invitation to tea during his first official visit to the United Kingdom after Tony Blair had been elected Prime Minister.
Documents that were released by the U.K.’s National Archive and obtained by CNN show that Clinton turned down the Queen’s invitation in favor of instead eating Indian food and going sightseeing. The papers show that staffers in Blair’s administration were making arrangements to ensure that the then-president’s 1997 visit to England was a “public relations success.”
A note from Phillip Barton, who was Blair’s private secretary at the time, shows that Clinton and his wife Hillary were offered tea with the Queen, but they declined.
“The Americans said that the President and Mrs. Clinton were very grateful for HM The Queen’s invitation to tea at the Palace, but would wish to decline politely,” Barton said.
Staffers in the Foreign Office reportedly made some suggestions for things Clinton could do that didn’t end up materializing, including a jam session “for the president (saxophone) and the prime minister (guitar) to play together briefly (with or without other musicians who might be at the lunch).”
Barton wrote in his note that the Clintons did not have a “clear idea” of what they wanted to do after the president’s meeting with Blair, but added that Clinton “wanted to be a tourist” by paying visits to a garden, local shops, and eating Indian food with the then-prime minister.
“The Americans were not attracted to our suggestion of a dinner at Chequers,” the note added, referring to the country home of the prime minister.
However, the Clintons did not get their Indian food wish, as they ended up joining Blair and his wife Cherie at the exclusive restaurant Le Pont de la Tour for dinner. The newly declassified documents include receipts showing that the couples dined on a £265 ($360) meal of halibut, salmon, sole and rabbit.
Blair and Clinton would go on to form a “special relationship” that saw them become close friends.
People Magazine reported that Clinton had met the Queen before 1997, something that he recounted in his memoirs.
“Her Majesty impressed me as someone who but for the circumstance of her birth, might have become a successful politician or diplomat,” Clinton wrote. “As it was, she had to be both, without quite seeming to be either.”
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