LONDON — For months, British officials laid plans to make sure that President Trump, a fan of ornate housing, will see a castle or two on his visit to England after the NATO gathering.
The British also know that in addition to loving all things gilded, Mr. Trump is a longtime Winston Churchill fan, and that since becoming president, has tried to cast himself in the image of the World War II prime minister.
So it is no accident that Mr. Trump began his visit to England on Thursday evening by having dinner at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Churchill.
Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, has only a few hours to warm up Mr. Trump on defense and trade issues, and to remind him of the value of the special relationship between the United States and Britain, while he is here on a whirlwind, mostly-by-helicopter stay.
By welcoming Mr. Trump to Blenheim, Mrs. May and other senior officials are pulling out the stops to try to dazzle a president who they know likes dazzle. But before the night was even over, Mr. Trump, in an interview with The Sun, criticized Mrs. May’s approach to Brexit.
The evening began with a ceremony featuring Scottish, Irish and Welsh guards playing “Amazing Grace.” The four trumpeters were from the Household Cavalry Band, which played for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They wore pure gold cloaks worn only in the presence of the queen or a head of state.
The dinner menu: Scottish salmon and English Hereford beef fillet, followed by strawberries and clotted-cream ice cream.
In a call with reporters before the England leg of the trip, Kim Darroch, the British Ambassador, said officials took Mr. Trump’s reverence for Churchill into account while arranging the visit.
“We wanted to do something different for the president,” Mr. Darroch said. “We know that he is an enthusiast of Winston Churchill. He’s a big fan of the film ‘Darkest Hour,’ so we thought it would be nice to do a dinner for him at Blenheim Palace.”
Mr. Trump, who loves tough guys, brought Churchill front and center after assuming the presidency.
Last year, he restored to the Oval Office a bust of the prime minister that had been moved during the Obama administration. And the grimace Mr. Trump has used in official portraits and on the world stage? That, too, was born of an effort to look like Churchill.
The real Churchill, sometimes to his chagrin, was painted to look much like a joyless bulldog, with squinted eyes and a protruding lower lip.
Last winter, as Mr. Trump was adjusting to his presidency, he was host to a screening of “Darkest Hour” at the White House.
The film, which lionizes Churchill’s extraordinary struggle to see Britain through a devastating war and face down one of history’s most destructive monsters, struck a chord with the president. Mr. Trump has said he usually has trouble sitting through movies, and will get up and leave if he is uninterested.
“Darkest Hour” stuck with the president as he made plans to visit Britain. In a phone call last winter, he told Mrs. May that she could become this generation’s Churchill, a British official said on Thursday. The official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity, was confirming a detail first reported by The Telegraph.
An official involved in the planning for the visit said there was even discussion of having the president visit the underground London bunker used by Mr. Churchill as a war room during World War II. Those plans were eventually cut out of the final agenda.
Mr. Trump is not the only Republican who admires Churchill. John Boehner, the former House speaker, and his successor, Paul D. Ryan, have held parties honoring Churchill at the Capitol. Other conservative figures like Jerry Falwell Jr., Michael Savage and Mike Huckabee have compared Mr. Trump to Churchill.
But when it comes to candidates for this generation’s Churchill, historians say Mr. Trump is not in the running, particularly after his divisive performance at this week’s NATO gathering.
In addition to spending two days disparaging his allies, Mr. Trump made light of his scheduled meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki on Monday, whom he said he doesn’t view as an enemy but as a competitor.
“Unlike Trump, Churchill understood that political leadership in times of crisis required a degree of national unification and alliance-building — the idea of collective security,” Matthew Dallek, an associate professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management who studies political history, said in an interview.
“If anything, Trump seems dead set on doing what he can to undo Churchill’s legacy,” Mr. Dallek added.
On Friday, Mr. Trump will meet with Mrs. May outside of London, and then fly to Windsor Castle to have tea with Queen Elizabeth II.
The president, who is deeply unpopular in London, will spend little time on the ground before flying to another palatial property: his golf course in Scotland.