Melania Trump dutifully tries her hand at lawn bowls
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump high-fives with a British military veteran known as a "Chelsea Pensioner" during a game of bowls at The Royal Hospital Chelsea in central London Friday, July 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, Pool)
Sylvia Hui, The Associated Press
Published Friday, July 13, 2018 8:58AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 13, 2018 7:45PM EDT
LONDON -- Her game face on, Melania Trump dutifully tried her hand at lawn bowls during a solo outing Friday to a historic London veterans' retirement home on her first visit to Britain as America's first lady.
As President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May met just outside London for talks, Mrs. Trump visited Royal Hospital Chelsea, an imposing building founded over 300 years ago by King Charles II that currently houses hundreds of British veterans. She was hosted by May's husband, Philip.
The pair toured the hospital grounds before joining a small group of elementary schoolchildren and veterans in making red paper poppies, a national symbol for remembering and honouring those fallen in war.
She greeted the children with a cheery "Hello" and a big smile, shaking their hands and asking one to show her how to make a poppy pin.
Reporters were shooed out of the room as the first lady engaged the group in a discussion about "Be Best," a campaign she unveiled in May to focus on childhood well-being and to teach them kindness.
She ended the visit with a game of bowls with May, the children and the veterans.
There was no sight or sound of the thousands of people rallying against President Trump in central London during his wife's visit, which her staff managed to largely keep secret to avoid the ire of demonstrators.
Wearing a sleeveless multicolored dress by British fashion designer Victoria Beckham and spiky flesh-tone stilettos, Mrs. Trump appeared to take the game seriously and followed a boy's advice on how to hold the ball. She stooped several times to roll it across the lawn, smiling and making a few faces.
Children waving British and U.S. flags cheered loudly. She also initiated a high-five with a veteran who gave her effort a thumbs-up.
In a statement afterward, Mrs. Trump said she had been "very much looking forward to discussing concepts of 'Be Best' on an international level. The event highlighted that being the best you can be incorporates honouring the sacrifices of the past and celebrating hope for the future."
The visit wrapped up before President Trump and May's news conference at her official country estate, where he denied ever criticizing the prime minister -- not long after a British tabloid published an interview that included his biting criticism of aspects of her leadership.
The first lady's appearance came amid her return to the international stage after she was hospitalized in May for a kidney surgery and dropped out of sight for nearly a month. She did not accompany the president to his meetings with world leaders in Canada and Singapore last month.
Mrs. Trump and the president reunited later Friday for a return trip into the country for a social visit and tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, then flew to Scotland for a private weekend at one of Trump's golf properties.
The first lady caused a stir last month when she wore a jacket with "I really done care, do u?" scrawled on the back on a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border to meet children affected by her husband's policy against illegal immigration.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.