Japanese state visit hosted by King set to begin – but without Anne after injury

A Japanese state visit to the UK hosted by the King is set to begin on Tuesday – but without the Princess Royal after her injury.

The King and Queen will entertain Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako days before the UK goes to the polls.

Anne will miss the state banquet on Tuesday after suffering minor injuries to her head and concussion when she was reportedly kicked by a horse on her Gatcombe Park estate.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan arrive at Stansted Airport in Essex ahead of their state visit to the UK.
Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako of Japan getting off a plane (Chris Radurn/PA)

Anne, a skilled horsewoman who competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, was walking on her Gloucestershire estate on Sunday evening when the incident happened and after being given medical care at the scene, she was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol by road for tests, treatment and observation.

The 73-year-old will miss several engagements this week, including the state banquet and an overseas tour to Canada, which was due to start this weekend.

The princess’s accident is the latest health upset to the hit the royal family this year, with the King and the Princess of Wales both being diagnosed with and undergoing treatment for cancer, and Sarah, Duchess of York, having skin cancer.

The red carpet will be rolled out for the Japanese visitors and the formal state occasion will include the traditional pomp and pageantry of a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade, a carriage procession and a grand banquet at Buckingham Palace.

It will take place from Tuesday to Thursday, ending a week before the July 4 election.

The Princess Royal wearing a ceremonial outfit
Anne during the Royal Hospital Chelsea’s Founders Day ceremony (Maja Smiejkowska/PA)

There were no incoming state visits at the same time as a general election campaign during Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign.

In 2017, a Spanish state visit by King Felipe VI was quickly rescheduled – after an agreement between the late Queen and King Felipe – because the date clashed with a snap election in the UK.

A Palace spokesman said this week’s programme had been “slightly adapted”, adding: “As a general principle, it has of course been adapted as a result of the current pre-election period of sensitivity.”

Missing elements appear to be the usual Downing Street talks with the Prime Minister, a speech to the Palace of Westminster by the visiting head of state, and meetings with opposition leaders.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer are expected to take a break from the campaign trail to attend the state banquet at Buckingham Palace, just over a week before the General Election.

Rishi Sunak with Sir Keir Starmer at the Palace of Westminster
Rishi Sunak with Sir Keir Starmer (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the emperor and empress’s visit would not be a political one and it was hoped it would forge “friendly relations across generations” between Japan’s imperial family and the British royal family.

The dinner, in the ballroom of the Palace, will see Mr Sunak and Sir Keir dress in white tie, process in and take their seats around the horseshoe-shaped table to hear speeches and toasts by Charles and the emperor.

A prime minister usually sits near the head of the table, with the leader of the opposition positioned further down.

State visits are planned by the Foreign Office, in consultation with the Palace.

The Prince of Wales will also take part in the visit, greeting the emperor and empress at their hotel on behalf of the King on Tuesday, and accompanying them to Horse Guards Parade.

William, who is president of the Football Association, is expected to be at the state banquet but it clashes with England’s last group game in the Euro 2024 tournament.

The King and Queen will formally welcome their guests, and Charles will inspect the Guard of Honour – formed of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards with the Band of the Welsh Guards – with the emperor before a carriage procession back to the Palace with Camilla and William.

Prince George, the Prince of Wales, Prince Louis, the Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace
The Prince and Princess of Wales with their children, Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (Jonathan Brady/PA)

After lunch at the royal residence, the guests will tour a Royal Collection exhibition in the Picture Gallery and then lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

In the evening, Emperor Naruhito, ruler of the Chrysanthemum throne, and Empress Masako will be feted with a lavish state banquet, where the King and the emperor will give speeches.

The Japanese visitors will spend seven days in the UK after arriving at Stansted Airport in Essex on Saturday to carry out private engagements before the official state visit.

On Thursday, they will bid farewell to the King and Queen and privately visit St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to lay a wreath on the tomb of the late Queen, before having a private visit to Oxford on Friday.

The key event in the royal calendar is Charles’s first incoming state visit since his cancer diagnosis.

The Princess of Wales, who returned briefly to the spotlight at Trooping the Colour last weekend despite her ongoing cancer treatment, is not expected to take part in the visit.

The Japanese state visit previously had to be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.