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Published

18 March 2024

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The state banquet has been, for centuries, the height of Royal hospitality.

These lavish occasions were originally an expression of the nation’s wealth and recognition of bonds of friendship from one Monarch to another. Today, they are part of a state visit, which is hosted by the Monarch on behalf of the government.

With a new Monarch as our head of state, has a new style been introduced to state banquets? Well, yes and no.

Royal watchers, particularly the British tabloids and those ‘taking to social media’, gleefully spoke of the first state banquet of King Charles III being ‘paired back’ with less lavish floral displays. So, is this true? Well no.

Whilst it is true that The King stuck to his green credentials and used seasonal flowers and foliage as well as potted palms and ferns, this style of décor (especially the potted plants) was very popular during the later reign of Queen Victoria as well as her son Edward VII. Comparing the flowers (or apparent lack of them) at the South African state banquet (22nd November 2022) to a banquet given by Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, there is very little difference, saving a distinct lack of pineapples and other exotic fruits.

The second state banquet of The King’s reign did have a little more for the beady-eyed watchers of Royal minutiae. The pineapples were back! 

Since the reign of Charles I, the pineapple has been an important part of the tablescape at a state banquet. Pineapples were so expensive that they became the symbol of hospitality because it showed you were really spoiling your guests with the very best and rarest things. We may never know why The King’s first state banquet lacked them, but I was delighted to see them return in 2023. 

I was also delighted to see brand-new china. Whilst much of the press reported that the ‘new’ side plates were, in fact, the late Queen’s Coronation banquet china, which had been ‘scrubbed’ of Her late Majesty’s monogram and replaced with that of The King, this is, in fact, not true.

I can confirm that the plates are new and made in Stoke-on-Trent. Anyone familiar with the late Queen’s Coronation dinner service will know that, whilst both are similar, The King’s new china has a double gilt band at the rim and a single band at the well, whereas the Coronation Service has a single band at both the rim and well. 

Also ‘new’ for this occasion was the glass. This was the late Queen’s Coronation service, but The King’s monogram was added on the opposite side to that of Her late Majesty, a nice and highly sustainable touch.

The ship of state moves slowly, as does the Monarch. I doubt we shall see much in the way of change going forward, but if there is, then I shall be here to report it!

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