The King’s reign has passed another milestone with Charles welcoming a foreign leader for an official state visit for the first time.
National figures had gathered in the royal pavilion for the pomp and pageantry of the ceremonial welcome with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined by senior members of the Cabinet, as well as the Lord Mayor of London, Nicholas Lyons, and the Defence Chiefs of Staff.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were part of events for the first time, travelling to Mr Ramaphosa’s luxury hotel in nearby central London and accompanying him to Horse Guards Parade for the start of the ceremonial welcome.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa visits the United Kingdom
More than 1,000 soldiers and over 230 horses took part in the ceremonial event and waiting on the parade ground were two immaculate lines of Foot Guards from Number 7 Company The Coldstream Guards.
Nearby in their gleaming breast plates and plumed helmets were the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment – Life Guards and Blues and Royals, commanded by Major Robert Perera of the Blues and Royals.
Former President Donald Trump’s state visit in 2019 was the most recent by a world leader but his welcome was staged in the gardens of Buckingham Palace, so the official visit by King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in 2019 was the last time a full ceremonial welcome was staged on Horse Guards Parade.
Lieutenant Colonel James Shaw, Brigade Major of Headquarters Household Division, who delivered the military ceremonial spectacle, said: “The state visit is a historic first: our first state visit for His Majesty the King and the President of South Africa, the first state visit in London since 2019, the first processional state visit on Horse Guards since 2018, and the first for almost everyone on parade.”
He added: “A huge amount of work has gone into preparing for the visit and we are very proud to support such an important national occasion.”
The visit was marked by the Prime Minister announcing the UK and South Africa will join forces to “turbocharge infrastructure investment and economic growth together”.
The next phase of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership is being launched on Tuesday, supporting South Africa’s economic growth through major infrastructure developments and offering increased access to UK companies to projects worth up to £5.37 billion over the next three years, said Downing Street.
Mr Sunak said: “South Africa is already the UK’s biggest trading partner on the continent, and we have ambitious plans to turbocharge infrastructure investment and economic growth together.
“I look forward to welcoming President Ramaphosa to London this week to discuss how we can deepen the partnership between our two great nations and capitalise on shared opportunities, from trade and tourism and security and defence.”
There is said to be much excitement and anticipation at Buckingham Palace as the royal household prepares for the first state visit since 2019 but the reservicing work at the royal residence has meant the South African leader could not stay at the London landmark.
Work for the South African state visit began during the late Queen’s reign and the King was said to have been delighted to continue with the plans.