LONDON - After two days spent basking in royal attention, President Donald Trump turned Wednesday to more solemn matters: commemorating 75 years since the Normandy landings.
He traveled to the English south coast for a ceremony at Portsmouth Harbor, near where allied forces set off for the beaches in France in their bid to retake Europe during World War II.
Trump appeared onstage briefly to read from a prayer originally delivered over the radio by one of his predecessors, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on the evening of the landings.
"Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity," Trump intoned before dancers emerged to the upbeat strains of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," the wartime ditty sung by the Andrews Sisters.
Earlier in the morning, Trump's mind was in a less reverent place. He tweeted barbs directed at former Vice President Joe Biden, the news media and the actress Bette Midler -- all before 8 a.m. local time in London -- where he was spending a second night in the US ambassador's residence.
In Britain, an interview Trump had conducted a day earlier with ITV host Piers Morgan was airing on breakfast television.
Asked about his own avoidance of war service -- Trump received a draft determent from Vietnam due to bone spurs in his foot -- the President criticized that American effort, even as he was preparing to commemorate an earlier one.
"Well, I was never a fan of that war I'll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war, I thought it was very far away," he said.
Trump revealed he'd carried out a "great conversation" about climate change with Prince Charles, an ardent campaigner on the perils of global warming.
Trump said he was "moved" by the Prince of Wales' passion on the matter. But asked whether he personally believes in climate change, Trump said "there is a change in weather and I think it changes both ways."
It was an illustration of Trump's ability in the UK to both flatter his hosts and undermine their positions. His gracious remarks on Tuesday about outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to put to rest any lingering animosity between the two, even as he met with one of her fiercest critics, Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, hours later.
On Wednesday, Trump joined the leaders of other countries who took part in the war, along with Queen Elizabeth II, to mark three-quarters of a century since D-Day. It's a precursor to the main anniversary events, which will take place at the American cemetery in Normandy on Thursday, the actual anniversary of the landings.
Trump alluded to the shared history in a toast Monday evening at Buckingham Palace, where he was attending a white tie banquet hosted by the Queen.
The US and the UK "defeated the Nazis and the Nazi regime, and liberated millions from tyranny," Trump said in his toast. The Queen, meanwhile, hailed the institutions that were born out of the bloodshed, saying "we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures."
As an embarkation point for the landings, Portsmouth carries historic weight. Before the invasion, US troops were stationed in the city and afterward, some injured servicemen returned for treatment here.
After the event, Trump will travel to western Ireland, where he is staying for the remainder of his time in Europe at the golf course he owns in Doonbeg. He'll also meet the country's prime minister Leo Varadkar inside the VIP lounge at Shannon Airport -- a compromise venue after the Irish government balked at meeting at Trump's property.
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.