Michelle Obama to visit Tower Hamlets and drink tea with Prince Harry on London visit

The First Lady is promoting the cause of female education

Cahal Milmo
Monday 15 June 2015 10:44
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Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron at a barbecue in the garden of 10 Downing Street in 2011
Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron at a barbecue in the garden of 10 Downing Street in 2011

The last time Michelle Obama visited a London school, she was greeted like a rock star and brought to the verge of tears. Few would bet against a similar performance when her cavalcade arrives in the East End on Tuesday.

The First Lady, who is due to land in the UK on Monday night, is scheduled to meet students at a girls’ school in the inner-city borough of Tower Hamlets as part of a 36-hour visit to London accompanied by her mother and her two daughters to promote the cause of female education – and squeeze in a cup of tea with Prince Harry.

Ms Obama’s latest official trip to Britain is likely to follow similar lines to her first visit in 2009, when she called in at an Islington girls’ comprehensive and was given an exultant welcome by teenage pupils that brought a choked response from the wife of the American President.

In an emotional address to students at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school, the Harvard-educated lawyer from modest beginnings, said: “I want you to know that we have very much in common. For nothing in my life’s path would have predicted that I would be standing here as the First Lady of the United States of America.”

Ms Obama has made her Let Girls Learn campaign to expand girls’ education around the world – where 62 million girls are still denied schooling – her personal cause as First Lady after previously struggling to find a defining role in the White House.

An Obama administration official said: “It’s been a huge asset to have the First Lady champion adolescent girls’ education. It’s raised awareness in ways that we could not otherwise have done.”

Though often lambasted by sections of the American media, Ms Obama is likely to receive an enthusiastic welcome at the highly rated Mulberry School for Girls in Whitechapel, where she will meet students before taking part in a discussion with invitees including the former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

It is not clear whether she will be accompanied to the school by her own teenage daughters, Malia and Sasha.

As is usual when the wife of the world’s most powerful man travels abroad, Ms Obama will be accompanied by a sizable support team, including a secret service protection team, transported in a fleet of bullet-proof SUVs following her arrival on a presidential jet in London on Monday evening.

As well as a swoop through one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs, her itinerary will include a visit to Downing Street for tea with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, as well as calling in on Prince Harry. The fifth in line to the throne previously met Mrs Obama in Washington in 2013.

With her husband in his second and final term, Mrs Obama has become a more prominent figure on the international scene, undertaking an increasing number of visits abroad, often accompanied by her daughters and her mother, Marian Robinson.

After visiting London, the group will travel to Italy for a three-city tour including a visit to the Expo Milan exhibition.

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