As a Prince, Charles assisted with scores of state visits to the UK as his mother played host to heads of state from across the world. But today, the first state visit he will host himself as King is announced, as the President of the Republic of South Africa will visit the UK from November 22 to 24.
Buckingham Palace announced that the three-day trip will take place in a short statement today and said further details of the itinerary will made clear nearer the time. “The President of the Republic of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by Dr Tshepo Motsepe, has accepted an invitation from His Majesty The King to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday 22nd November to Thursday 24th November 2022. The King and The Queen Consort will host the State Visit at Buckingham Palace,” the statement said.
Traditionally, state visits to the UK begin with a ceremonial welcome on Horseguards Parade attended by members of the royal family and dignitaries before the visiting head of state joins the royals in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace. That evening, a lavish state banquet is held in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace for which the royals wear their finest outfits and jewels. Just as Queen Elizabeth did, the King is expected to personally oversee every aspect of the banquet, including the seating plan and menu.
State visits play an important role in strengthening the UK’s relationships with other countries, and the royal family has a key diplomatic part to play. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises on who to invite, but it is the royals who are center-stage for the duration of such visits, with the Queen having made many speeches and toasts to visiting heads of state. State visits are organized well in advance, and planning for this one began before Queen Elizabeth died.
Queen Elizabeth famously had a fond relationship with former South African President Nelson Mandela. She visited him in South Africa in 1995, one year after apartheid ended and the country rejoined the Commonwealth. Charles’s first visit to South Africa was in 1997 and he and Camilla returned in 2011. He also attended Mandela’s funeral in December 2013, representing his mother as she no longer carried out long-haul travel.
The last state visit to the UK from a South African president was in 2010 by President Jacob Zuma and Mrs Zuma. Prior to that, President Thabo Mbeki and Mrs. Mbeki visited in 2001 and President Nelson Mandela visited in 1996.
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