The Queen held a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace tonight, to honour the visit by US President Donald Trump, and the First Lady, Melania.
170 guests at the event included members of the Royal Family, dignitaries, politicians, high ranking civil servants, the military and leaders from the worlds of business and economy. The President’s children and their spouses were also in attendance at the banquet.
Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable and John Bercow, however, refused to attend the event. Theresa May was present in what is likely to be her last senior royal event, as she steps down from her role next month.
The Queen is known to take an avid personal interest in ensuring that State Banquets are carried out to the letter and places meticulous attention on every aspect. Every detail from the menu, flowers, music, speech, seating plan, chinaware and glassware has been personally overseen by the Monarch and executed by her professional staff who are well used to laying on events of this magnitude.
Having already had lunch with The Queen (where the dessert was doughnuts!) and tea with Prince Charles and Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall earlier today, the President and Mrs Trump were treated to a dinner consisting of steamed fillet of halibut with watercress, asparagus spears with a chervil sauce, new Windsor lamb with herb stuffing and spring vegetables topped. Dessert was a strawberry sable and lemon verbena cream.
Tonight’s menu has been six months in the planning and the table itself took three days for royal staff to set.
The dinner took place on a horse-shoe shaped table in the ballroom, with The Queen and Mr Trump seated at its head. They were flanked by The First Lady, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.
Dinner was served on a historic dinner set with six different glasses for water, champagne, red and white wine dessert wine and port.
The table arrangement is a painstakingly precise process with each place set exactly 45 centimetres apart with every chair an equal distance from the table. The glasses were also arranged on the table with same meticulous level of detail.
19 service stations were staffed by a page, a footman, under butler and wine butler who used a traffic light system to coordinate serving all the courses to a regimented timetable.
The Queen gave a speech where she spoke of her delight at welcoming the President and emphasised the “the close and longstanding relationship” between the two countries.
“Visits by American Presidents always remind us of the close and longstanding friendship between the United Kingdom and the United States, and I am so glad that we have another opportunity to demonstrate the immense importance that both our countries attach to our relationship.”
“Of course, it is not only our security which unites us; but our strong cultural links and shared heritage. Every year, there are almost four million visits by Americans to the United Kingdom, with a great number claiming British descent. And with your own Scottish ancestry, Mr President, you too have a particular connection to this country.”
The President in turn responded with a speech referencing the war effort made by The Queen’s parents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth and paid tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh’s service in the navy in the Second World War.
He went on to say that The Queen embodies ‘the spirit of dignity, duty, and patriotism that beats proudly in every British heart’ and ended by proposing a toast to the ‘truly remarkable reign’ of Elizabeth II.
“On behalf of all Americans, I offer a toast to the eternal friendship of our people, the vitality of our nations and to the long-cherished and truly remarkable reign of Her Majesty, The Queen. Thank you.”
A string orchestra played throughout the evening and the meal concluded with 12 pipers, a tradition started by Queen Victoria signalling the end of the banquet.