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State & Ceremonial

Polish the Silver: Buckingham Palace prepares for State Banquet



As Great Britain awaits the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan, preparations are well underway at Buckingham Palace for the traditional State Banquet. The elaborate preparations for the exquisite banquet began weeks ago, and it is expected that around 150 people will be in attendance including various members of The Royal Family, officials from the UK and China as well as business leaders.

President Xi Jinping begins his state visit to the United Kingdom on Tuesday 20th October and will be in the country until Friday 23rd October.

It is a vast understatement to call a State Banquet a dinner for there is nothing that can touch the finesse and prestige of a banquet at Buckingham Palace. In preparation for the event, the 175ft long dining table in the Buckingham Palace ballroom is polished while napkins, embroidered with The Queen’s monogram, are folded by one man known as the Yeoman of the Glass and China Pantry. Such is the attention to detail at a State Banquet, the 175ft long dining table takes two days to be laid, and requires an astonishing 1104 glasses and 2000 pieces of silver-gilt cutlery.

In further preparations, the Yeoman of the Silver Pantry has to unpack George IV’s Grand Service from its temperature controlled home and those thinking it is as simple as that, would be thinking wrong. The Grand Service contents have to be hand washed, dried and polished before they are even considered for use at such an event.

Since the Field of the Cloth of Gold extravaganza in 1520, where King Henry VIII and Francis I of France tried to outshine each other, royal hospitality has always included a sense of showing off. State Banquets in the present day still fulfil the Tudor needs for display and extravagance and that is exactly what the Chinese President will be treated to this coming Tuesday. Although the food won’t have quite the effect on his digestive system as it would have done in the 1520s.

A senior member of the Royal Household spoke at a previous banquet, “Guests who have been to a State Banquet say it was one of the most incredible experiences of their lives. The pageantry, perfectionism, the showcasing of British treasures, make it a display of British excellence. It is extremely rewarding for everyone working on it because it is so special.”

A four-course meal will be served at the State Banquet consisting of an appetiser, main course, dessert and fruit and will be prepared by around 20 royal chefs. What will be included in the four courses is still unknown.

Highlights of President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to Britain include the ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade, a meeting with Charles and Camilla at Clarence House as well as a visit to Lancaster House with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.