Queen welcomes South African president Jacob Zuma to Britain

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The Independent Online

British pomp and pageantry was on full display today to greet South African President Jacob Zuma as he began a three-day state visit to Britain.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh led the nation in welcoming the statesman and his wife on a chilly and windswept Horse Guards Parade in London's Whitehall.

In turn the monarch was warmly greeted by Mr Zuma who clasped her outstretched gloved hand with both of his and did the same with Philip.

The two heads of state met on a dais decorated with the national colours of South Africa and watched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

Amongst the other senior figures introduced to the presidential couple were Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson while Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup - head of the Armed Forces - led the senior military officers.

The statesman, a Zulu traditionalist who practices polygamy, wore a large winter coat and scarf against the bitter winter conditions.

Mr Zuma, 67, married his third wife Thobeka Madiba, 36, a former bank clerk, in January and she was chosen to accompany him on the visit.

After South Africa's famous national anthem - Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika - was played by the Band of the Grenadier Guards the Duke escorted the president to inspect 101 men of Nijmegen Company of the Grenadier Guards.

The soldiers - who when not performing ceremonial duties are regular fighting troops - wore long Army great coats, their famous bearskins and carried rifles.

The Duke and President walked briskly past the servicemen before returning to the dais where the Queen, dressed in a striking violet Stewart Parvin coat with gold coloured buttons and matching hat, waited to take her guests to Buckingham Palace.

The procession along the Mall by the Monarch and the presidential couple was a glittering affair as they were accompanied by a mounted Sovereign's Escort provided by the Household Cavalry's Life Guards and Blues and Royals.

The Queen rode in the lavishly decorated Australian State coach with the president while Mrs Zuma, who had been smiling throughout the ceremony, was joined by the Duke in the Scottish State coach.

The other dignitaries including Charles and Camilla, senior members of the Royal Household and senior figures from Mr Zuma's party followed behind in a series of Landau carriages.