Tuesday marked a milestone for King Charles III, who welcomed South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the UK for the first state visit of his reign. Kate Middleton and Prince William had the royal responsibility of being the first family members to greet President Ramaphosa and meet the leader at the Corinthia Hotel in London.
The state occasion was also special for Prince William and Kate as it is their first since becoming Prince and Princess of Wales.
Kate chose an autumnal plum shade that complemented her coat dress perfectly with her accessories (including a chic pillbox hat!).
Prince William and Kate greeted King Charles and Queen Camilla with a curtsey and a bow.
During the salutation at Horse Guards, President Ramaphosa and the king walked side by side as they inspected the troops.
President Ramaphosa and the Royals gathered in the Royal Pavilion for Horse Guards Parade. Presentations were given and the national anthem of South Africa was played.
Ramaphosa will spend the next few days in the UK to conduct engagements that highlight the two countries’ shared history.
And the celebrations begin! President Ramaphosa joined King Charles and Queen Camilla in the Irish State Coach, traveling through London to Buckingham Palace in a dazzling horse-drawn carriage procession.
The epic equestrian procession was straight out of the pages of a fairy tale book. Although President Ramaphosa’s trip is the first state visit by King Charles’ government, much of the organization is believed to have taken place before the late Queen Elizabeth’s death in September.
As COVID restricted visits and international travel, this is the British royal family’s first state visit since 2019.
South African flags and Union Jack flags lined the Mall as a sign of patriotism and cooperation as the horses trotted along.
Queen Camilla was bright in a sky blue ensemble for the royal reception.
Meanwhile, Princess Kate and Prince William drove to the palace in the Australian state car with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.
Following the entry ceremony into Buckingham Palace and a private lunch, King Charles and Queen Camilla guided the President through the Picture Gallery to view items from the Royal Collection related to South Africa.
Among the items on display was the text of a speech given by then-Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday and a black and white photograph. In a special radio show from Cape Town, the royal pledged her life for her duties.
“I declare to you all that my whole life, long or short, will be dedicated to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong,” the future monarch famously said.
Princess Kate and Prince William were present at the event and walked through the picture gallery with South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.
Other members of the royal family present at the palace were Prince Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
Tuesday evening brought the highlight of the week: the state banquet at Buckingham Palace – the first of the British royal family since 2019!
For her tiara debut as Princess of Wales, she wore her favorite headpiece: Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara.
Prince Edward attended with his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who wore the aquamarine necklace tiara to the state banquet.
Speaking at the banquet, King Charles said: “My wife and I are delighted to welcome you to Buckingham Palace tonight.
“South Africa, like the Commonwealth, has always been a part of my life. My mother often recalled her visit in 1947, the year before I was born, when she dedicated her life to the service of the people of the Commonwealth from Cape Town on her 21st birthday.”
The king added: “It is therefore particularly moving and special that you are our guest on this first state visit that we have hosted.”
King Charles also shared the nickname Nelson Mandela used for Queen Elizabeth: Motlalepula, meaning “to come with rain.”
He said: “I have been assured that this was a sign of the special affection President Mandela felt for the Queen… and not a comment on Britain’s habit of taking our weather with us!”
President Ramaphosa sat between King Charles and the Princess of Wales at dinner.
The dinner menu for the banquet in the Palace Ballroom included grilled brill with wild mushrooms and truffles in a sorrel sauce and Windsor pheasant ballotine stuffed with artichokes, quince compote and port wine sauce. For dessert there was iced vanilla parfait with caramelized apples.
The table was adorned with over 100 ivory candles, along with seasonal fruit and 23 floral arrangements in silver-gilt centerpieces. flowers of the season from Buckingham Palace and the gardens of Windsor Castle were used for the floral arrangements.
They highlighted the science and conservation partnerships the two countries share, most notably the Millennium Seed Bank partnership through the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Prince Edward and President Ramaphosa toured the plants in the world-famous gardens, including the royal protea, South Africa’s national flower.
The men then visited the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research center specializing in the study of the biology of health and disease. The institute, which includes academia, medicine and industry, works in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a public university in South Africa.
At the Science Center, Prince Edward and the President looked at technologies used across Africa to diagnose, including COVID-19, before spending time with South African students and scientists.