What is a State Visit?
State Visits, both outward and incoming, play an integral role in strengthening Britain's relationships with countries across the world.
From Ethiopia to Chile, Thailand to Bahrain, Iceland to the USA, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, throughout her 70-year reign travelled to – or hosted visitors from – a huge number of different countries.
His Majesty The King will host the President of South Africa for his first State Visit in November 2022.
Who are the visitors?
Foreign Monarchs, Presidents or Prime Ministers are invited to visit The King on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The programme for outward State Visits can vary widely, but incoming Visits usually feature a few regular events.
How are the visitors welcomed?
Firstly, The King and other Members of the Royal Family greet visitors with a ceremonial welcome, which usually takes place on Horse Guards Parade.
The visiting party is invited to inspect a Guard of Honour before travelling back to the Palace in a carriage procession escorted by a large number of mounted soldiers from the Household Cavalry. The welcome is accompanied by gun salutes fired from Green Park and the Tower of London.
What else happens during the visit?
Usually on the evening of the arrival day, the visitors will be hosted at a State Banquet, which is a very grand formal occasion held in the Buckingham Palace Ballroom. Around 150 guests are usually invited on the basis of their cultural, diplomatic or economic links to the country being hosted.
Before dinner is served, The King makes a speech and proposes a toast to the visiting Head of State, who replies and in return proposes a toast to Her Majesty.
For the remainder of the State Visit, which normally lasts a few days, the visitor will meet the British Prime Minister, Government ministers and leaders of the main political parties. They may attend another Banquet hosted by the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation, where they will meet leaders of commerce and industry.
Sometimes the Royal Collection will display an exhibition of themed items, for example when The King of Spain came in 2017, a display of Spanish-themed objects was displayed – including a section dedicated to Queen Ena of Spain, who was Queen Victoria’s youngest granddaughter and King Felipe’s great-grandmother.