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Obama gets royal treatment in England

LONDON -- In lavish style, President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II affirmed Tuesday a bond between the United States and the United Kingdom that has strengthened through the sacrifice of war and a history of common values.

As the queen put it, the relationship is "tried, tested and, yes, special."

For his part, the president, dressed in white-tie tuxedo for a glitzy dinner at Buckingham Palace, said in a toast that the relationship "never rests."

"We can have confidence in the partnership that our two countries share, based on the rock-solid foundation built during Queen Elizabeth's lifetime of extraordinary service to the nation and to the world," Obama said at a dinner in which White House staffers mixed with U.S. movie stars and British royalty.

Obama immersed himself in grandeur as the queen welcomed him to the palace for the first day of a state visit that kept the president largely out of sight for most of the British public.

There was an elaborate arrival ceremony on the steps of the palace's West Terrace, with a 41-gun salute; a tour of the Queen's private gallery, where the monarch highlighted items she thought would hold personal significance to the president; and a short meeting with newlyweds Prince William and Kate Middleton.

But the pomp and pageantry happened largely behind the palace walls. Though pictures of Obama's visit blanketed British television, the president made no formal remarks, except for a brief statement on the deadly tornadoes in the United States.

The day stood in stark contrast to Obama's stopover Monday in Ireland, where the president with a touch of Irish in his family history set out to connect with the public. And the Irish returned the embrace, often literally, lining the streets of Moneygall, the tiny village that was home to Obama's great-great-great-grandfather, and packing central Dublin for his speech on the bonds between the United States and Ireland.

In London, small crowds gathered outside the palace and Westminster Abbey, where the president laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The best they could hope for was a quick wave as Obama entered his limousine or a glimpse as his motorcade sped by.

Obama did break away from the formality of the royal family for a trip to a local school, where he and Prime Minister David Cameron visited a science class and played table tennis with students.

Obama and Cameron will hold substantial meetings today on Afghanistan, Libya and counterterrorism, and the president will address the British parliament.

Before delving back into heavy foreign policy matters, the Obamas were guests of the queen at a lavish banquet at Buckingham Palace last night. About 170 members of the royal family and other dignitaries were to attend.

Obama is only the second U.S. president to be accorded a state visit in Britain during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, according to Buckingham Palace. Although most previous presidents have visited and met the queen, a number of features are required by British protocol for the trip to be considered a state visit. George W. Bush is the only previous U.S. president to be accorded a state visit, according to the palace.

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