A South African state visit tells us about the new monarchy

A version of this story appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of CNN’s Royal News, the weekly dispatch that brings you the inside track on the British royal family. Register here.


Another week, another set of firsts for the new King. This time, Charles III hosted the first state visit of his reign and welcomed South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to the UK.

It was a short two-day trip, but that didn’t stop the monarch from pulling out all the stops for a diplomatic visit designed to strengthen relations between the two nations.

The trip was in the works before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, and while state visits generally follow a program of celebrated events at the time, King Charles still managed to put his own stamp on the occasion.

He started with a grand reception full of British pomp and pageantry. Charles was not alone, he warmly welcomed Ramaphosa to the Royal Pavilion at the Horse Guards Parade in central London. The Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales were also in attendance – with the couple flown to Ramaphosa’s hotel to meet the head of state earlier in the day.

More than 1000 soldiers and 200 horses participated in the ceremonial military spectacle. The President of South Africa was delighted as he visited his guard of honor and received a royal salute from No. 7 Company Coldstream Guards under the crisp winter sun.

Lieutenant-Colonel James Shaw, who oversaw the huge ceremonial events in his role as Brigadier Major of the Household Division, said preparations for Tuesday’s welcome had been “great work”, before saying those involved were “very proud to support such an important national holiday.”

“The state visit is a historic first: our first state visit for His Majesty the King and the President of South Africa, our first state visit to London since 2019, our first state visit for the Horse Guards since 2018, and almost the first time. According to the British news agency PA Media, a military organizer said that everyone is in the parade.

After the official welcome, the party returned to Buckingham Palace where Ramaphosa was greeted by a second guard of honour. The evening was followed by a special lunch hosted by the King before a white-tie state banquet followed by a tour of the Royal Collection of South African items.

Buckingham Palace’s banquets, traditionally held on the first night of a state visit, are held in the ballroom, and around 160 invitations are sent to people “with cultural, diplomatic or economic ties to the country”.

Before everyone tucks into the sumptuous feast (starting with truffles in sizzling mushroom and sorrel sauce, followed by artichoke, quince compote and port sauce-stuffed Windsor pheasant for the main), the monarch traditionally says a few words and raises a glass to the guest of honour.

Charles impressed Ramaphosa by opening his speech with the word “welcome” in several different languages ​​spoken in South Africa. After a few jokes, the king praised the economic, scientific and cultural relations between the countries. All standard notes for a banquet speech, but Charles also didn’t shy away from tougher topics, talking about Britain’s troubled colonial legacy.

“While there are elements of this history that cause deep sadness, it is important to try to understand them,” he said. “If we are to unlock the power of our common future, we must acknowledge the mistakes that shaped our past.”

Charles’ comments were seen by many as part of an ongoing effort to unify the Commonwealth realms, with some expressing intentions to sever ties with London in recent years.

The monarch also took the opportunity to call for further cooperation in finding “practical solutions to the twin existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss”.

With this first visit by a foreign leader just two months into his reign, the King was also keen to reflect on his late mother’s ties to South Africa, recalling her visits to the country, hosting Ramaphosa’s predecessors in London and their friendships. he shared it with respected statesman Nelson Mandela.

Other royals were also keen to make Elizabeth II’s presence felt by wearing the late Queen’s dazzling sapphire and diamond tiara with a matching necklace and bracelet, while Kate wore a bracelet belonging to the family matriarch.

The South African state visit was Charles’ first major diplomatic test. While leaning on the templates established by her mother, she made it clear that she wanted to shake things up and tackle issues that were important to her and her subjects.

It’s almost as if she’s planning to do it with Camilla, William and Kate, and other members of the House of Windsor are upping their game. In the twilight of Charles’s reign, it became common to see him support and sometimes be at his mother’s side. But this week, the Prince and Princess of Wales’ popularity during a state visit has seen the couple promoted to important central roles. The four will work together front and center, sharing responsibilities to ensure the dynasty’s future.

Here are some of our favorite shots from King Charles’ first state visit as monarch.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty Images

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa leaves Horse Guards Parade with King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla in the Irish State Coach on their way to Buckingham Palace at the start of the President’s two-day state visit.

Dan Kitwood/AFP/Getty Images

After a private lunch, the King and President headed to the Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery, where they viewed items from the Royal Collection relating to South Africa. Here, Ramaphosa holds a photo of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who served as South Africa’s president in the 1990s, with the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Ramaphosa was also invited to visit Westminster Abbey, where he was shown Mandela’s memorial stone. The dean of Westminster Abbey, very reverend Dr. Accompanied by David Hoyle.

Aaron Chown/Getty Images

King Charles laughs around the dinner table as he speaks at a state dinner on Tuesday evening.

Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images

The following day, the Earl of Wessex accompanied Ramaphosa to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The couple then visited the Francis Crick Institute, a research center in collaboration with the University of KwaZulu-Natal. During the stop, they learned about technology used to diagnose infections on the African continent and met with South African scientists and students.

Stefan Rousseau/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The state visit also gave UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak the opportunity to welcome Ramaphosa to 10 Downing Street for a bilateral meeting.

Charles’ engagement day in the capital.

The King was a man about town on Wednesday as he visited three establishments that house many of the country’s leading lawyers, doctors and jewellers. The King first visited Gray’s Inn, one of London’s four inns of court where lawyers have cut their teeth for more than four centuries. Charles met a number of cadets hoping to be called to the Bar soon before touring the pristine grounds of the central London hotel. From there, the King made a short trip to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the oldest hospital in the UK, where a restoration project will begin in 2023, the building’s 900th anniversary. Specialist craftsmen are rejuvenating the property’s historic North Wing – a Grade I listed building adorned with a grand medieval staircase and paintings by William Hogarth. The king met with the workers in the restoration of the building, as well as with the frontline hospital staff. To round off the day, the King visited the Goldsmith’s Centre, the UK’s leading educational charity for training goldsmiths and silversmiths. Aware of the King’s long-standing commitment to environmental protection, the Goldsmiths’ Company presented him with a cross made of recycled silver. Today showed how Britain’s historical institutions continue to burst with new talent.

Camilla helps Paddington Bears find new homes this Christmas.

Who knew that when the Queen sat down for tea with Paddington Bear, she would become intrinsically connected to her beloved children’s literature character? The duo likely made such an impact on the country that after the monarch’s death, mourners had to be asked by the Palace whether to stop placing her trademark marmalade sandwiches among the floral tributes. Mourners left more than 1,000 Paddington Bear toys outside the royal residences. Not wanting them to go to waste, the toys were collected, cleaned and donated to Barnardos children’s charity by the Queen Consort this week. On Thursday, a fleet of taxis delivered the bears, along with Camilla herself, to Barnardo’s nursery in Bow, east London. After a very special teddy bears’ picnic, some favorite toys were gifted to the children there; others will be distributed to children across the country with the charity’s support.

David Hockney adds a splash of color to Palace proceedings.

British artist David Hockney has made a career out of his extravagant use of color – and his latest appearance at Buckingham Palace made it clear that it’s not just limited to canvas. It’s not every day the British are invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace. Even fewer people receive invitations because they are members of the Order of Merit. This prestigious award is reserved for only the most talented individuals in the Commonwealth – there can only be 24 living members at a time. For those invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the achievement, the expectation is that they will be dressed better than they were on Sunday. But David Hockney has always been one to defy expectations. The 85-year-old arrived at the palace wearing yellow Crocs – not brogues or oxford shoes. The elegant fashion choice added extra festivity to the occasion.

“Thank you for entertaining all of you for decades. Thank you for being a friend to my mother.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex joined a host of celebrities sending well wishes to Elton John as he played his final North American tour at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles last weekend. The couple appeared in a video message released before the start of the concert, and Harry thanked the musician for being a friend of the family and entertaining the world for several decades. “Thank you for being our friend and thank you for being (friends) with our children and thank you for entertaining people all over the world,” the Duke said.

Attention Royal News readers: A quick note to let you know that we will be covering the visit of The Prince and Princess of Wales to the United States next week. This means that next week’s release may be a little later than normal depending on how things unfold.

– Max and Lauren