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King adds green touch to flowers at his first state banquet

The King requested only sustainable blooms be used in the Buckingham Palace ballroom as he hosted the president of South Africa.

Laura Elston
Tuesday 22 November 2022 19:31 GMT
The president of South Africa, the King and the Queen Consort arrive at Buckingham Palace (Peter Nicholls/PA)
The president of South Africa, the King and the Queen Consort arrive at Buckingham Palace (Peter Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

The King turned to his green credentials as he hosted the first state banquet of his reign by personally requesting only sustainable flowers be used.

In the Buckingham Palace ballroom, the grand horseshoe-shaped table, set for 163 people, was decorated with blooms sourced from the palace gardens and Windsor Castle.

And in a new addition to the traditional floral centrepieces at banquets during the late Queen’s reign, the table was also lined with hundreds of tiny individual stem glass vases, each filled with pink, red and purple flowers.

Cyclamen, nerines, rosehips, anemones, amaryllis, chrysanthemum blooms and hydrangea made up the elaborate display, as well as crab apples sourced from Kent.

The foliage included variegated berried ivy, trailing green ivy, flowering viburnum, mahonia japonica and berried cotoneaster.

A spokesman for the King said: “It was the King’s decision to ask for sustainable flowers.

“They are all seasonal and from the gardens of Windsor and Buckingham Palace. They have not been flown in from around the world.”

The King and Queen Consort followed the late Queen’s tradition of inspecting the table to make sure everything was in order, ahead of the evening event in honour of the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Charles and Camilla, in footage posted on the Royal Family’s social media account, were shown surveying the scene, with the Queen Consort reaching out to touch one of the central floral decorations.

The couple were said to have been “involved in every aspect of the state visit”, which saw them welcome Mr Ramaphosa to the UK with a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade and a private lunch earlier on Tuesday.

In a break from tradition for state visits, no details of the gifts exchanged between the King and the president were released by Buckingham Palace.

The table was decorated with more than 100 ivory-coloured candles in silver-gilt candelabra, with displays of dates, pineapples, grapes and pears, and 23 large flower arrangements in silver-gilt centre pieces.

The elaborate grand service being used was commissioned by George IV.

Made of 4,000 pieces, it includes 14 tureens, 20 sauce tureens, 140 dishes, 288 dinner plates, 118 salts, 12 ice pails, 12 mirrored plateaux, 58 dessert stands and centrepieces and 107 candelabra.

More than a thousand glasses are used at a banquet. Every guest is given six glasses.

A further champagne glass for the toasts is also provided. Each guest also receives a glass finger bowl during the fruit course, usually placed on top of a linen doily and a Tournai porcelain plate.

Once the tablecloths have been laid, the napkins – folded into a Dutch bonnet shape – are usually the first items to go on the table.

Each guest is allowed 18 inches (46 cm) for their place setting.

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