With just days to go until the State Visit by the President of China, preparations are entering their final stages and every hour of practice time is precious. So in the early hours of Friday morning, the Army was out in force practicing manoeuvres for the event that will see it taking a starring role.
They took to the streets of London while most of us slept to get ready for their ceremonial role in the State Visit, which gets under way on Tuesday. Beneath the glow of street lights and the cloak of a cloudy sky, the troops practiced the manoeuvres that will accompany the visit, set to be followed around the world.
The Guard of Honour Ceremony for the State Visit will take place at Horse Guards Parade. The 1st Batallion Grenadier Guards, Corps of Drums of the Battalion and the Band of the Regiment will take part. The Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment accompanied by The Band of the Household Cavalry will arrive at Horse Guards soon afterwards.
The practice took place at 5 am to avoid disruption to the public. Soon afterwards, the Chinese flag was put up along the Mall in preparation for the event.
The President of China, Xi Jinping, and his wife, Madame Peng Liyuan, will pay a three-day State Visit and will be hosted by The Queen at Buckingham Palace during the event. The guests will be officially greeted on their arrival by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, but Prince Charles won’t attend the State Banquet. Although Buckingham Palace hasn’t given a reason for his absence, Charles has made no secret of his support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama and has not been silent in the past about China.
The three-day visit will also see President Xi and his wife visit the Palace of Westminster and meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will accompany the Chinese President and Madame Peng Liyuan at a creative industry event in London during their stay.
This is the first State Visit by a Chinese Head of State for ten years – in 2005, the then President, Hu Jintao, made a visit. The Queen famously visited China in 1986 and earlier this year, the Duke of Cambridge made a trip to the country.