The royal banquet: French food and the Queen's best china

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The Independent Online

The French might have been vociferous in their opposition to the war in Iraq but their cuisine proved most palatable to George Bush at the royal banquet in his honour last night.

The 170 royal guests sat down to a four-course menu written in French with a selection of fine French wines at Buckingham Palace.

A royal procession into the banquet was led by the Queen, partnered by President Bush followed by the Duke of Edinburgh with Laura Bush, the Prince of Wales with Condoleezza Rice, the Duke of York with the wife of the US ambassador William Farish, and the Princess Royal with Colin Powell.

The guest list ranged from politicians and diplomats to the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. Music from an orchestra included "O Sole Mio", "Greensleeves" and music from the television series Band of Brothers.

The top table consisted of the Queen and Prince Philip, Mr and Mrs Bush, Prince Charles, the Princess Royal, Mr Powell and his wife Alma, Tony Blair, Ms Rice, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Duchess of Norfolk and the Kuwaiti ambassador.

The Queen's best china was out and table settings included 1953 Coronation glass, a silver gilt service for main courses, 1760 Manchester Sèvres china for dessert and 1876 Victoria & Regina dessert china for fruit.

Other royal heirlooms, dating from the Regency and the reign of George IV, were used as table centrepieces, including four silver-gilt bottle coolers and silver-gilt dessert stands and tureens.

The Queen exchanged presents with Mr and Mrs Bush. President Bush was presented with a solid silver rule engraved with the royal cypher and the US presidential seal, which listed all previous presidents on its reverse, and Mrs Bush received a jewellery box made by the Queen's nephew Viscount Linley.

In turn, the President and Mrs Bush gave the Queen and Prince Philip a specially commissioned set of china, two platters and a bowl designed by Timothy Carter.