As Head of State, The Queen plays a vital role in UK diplomacy, supporting the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at home and abroad.
During the course of her reign, Her Majesty has visited over 100 countries at the request of the UK Government, and continues to welcome hundreds of world leaders, ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic community for State Visits, Audiences and other engagements at Royal Residences every year.
The Diplomatic Reception, which takes place annually, sees The Queen and other members of the Royal Family welcome over 500 members of the Diplomatic Corps in the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.
Her Majesty also regularly welcomes Ambassadors and High Commissioners based in London for Audiences, which are one-to-one meetings with The Queen.
There are more than 170 Ambassadors and High Commissioners based in London at any given time and each one of them will have an Audience with The Queen shortly after taking up his or her role.
The Queen and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Queen is in regular contact with officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which looks after British interests overseas and builds diplomatic ties with other countries. The FCO advises on which foreign Heads of State should be invited to the UK on State Visits. The Queen and the Royal Family are then responsible for hosting the Head of State and his or her party with a ceremonial arrival and a State Banquet to welcome them.
In July 2020, Her Majesty took part in a video call with the FCO to hear about their response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and thank them for their efforts. She spoke to staff about their work on the UK’s largest-ever peacetime repatriation, which helped over 1 million British travellers to return home during lockdown after travel restrictions came into effect. As part of the call, a new portrait of The Queen was unveiled. The painting was commissioned by the FCO to hang in the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, and pays tribute to the contribution Her Majesty has made to UK diplomacy throughout her reign.
Other members of the Royal Family in support of The Queen
Members of the Royal Family support The Queen’s role as Head of State and regularly undertake overseas visits at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on behalf of The Queen. These visits tend to celebrate the ties and shared interests between the UK and other nations.
Members of the Royal Family occasionally take on a special role for which overseas visits can bring much needed awareness to a particular issue. The Countess of Wessex works with survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, alongside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as part of her work on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
During State Visits and key diplomatic events such as Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and significant anniversaries, the entire working Royal Family comes together to warmly welcome visiting Heads of State.