What the South African state visit tells us about the new monarchy

A version of this story appeared in the November 25 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.

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CNN

Another week, another set of firsts for the new King. This time round, 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 visit but that didn’t stop the monarch from pulling out the stops for a diplomatic tour de force designed to reinforce the relationship between the two nations.

The trip had been in the works before Queen Elizabeth II’s death and while state visits generally stick to a time-honored program of events, King Charles still managed to put his own stamp on the occasion.

He kicked things off with a grand processional welcome teeming with British pomp and pageantry. Charles wasn’t alone as he warmly welcomed Ramaphosa at the Royal Pavilion at Horse Guards Parade in central London. Also in attendance were the Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales – the couple having been dispatched to Ramaphosa’s hotel to greet the head of state earlier in the day.

More than 1,000 soldiers and 200 horses participated in the ceremonial military spectacle. The South African President looked delighted as he inspected a guard of honor and received a royal salute in the crisp winter sunshine from Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards.

Lt Col James Shaw, who oversees major ceremonial events in his role as Brigade Major of the Household Division, said preparations for Tuesday’s welcome had taken “a huge amount of work,” before revealing that those involved were “very proud to support such an important national occasion.”

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“The state visit is a historic first: our first state visit for His Majesty the King and the President of South Africa, the first state visit in London since 2019, the first processional state visit on Horse Guards since 2018, and the first for almost everyone on parade,” the military organizer said, according to the UK’s PA Media news agency.

Following the official welcome, the party took a carriage ride back to Buckingham Palace where Ramaphosa was greeted with a second honor guard. A tour of Royal Collection items themed around South Africa followed a private lunch put on by the King, before an elaborate white-tie state banquet in the evening.