King welcomes South African leader on first state visit of his reign

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The King’s reign has passed another milestone with Charles welcoming a foreign leader for an official state visit for the first time.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was warmly greeted by the monarch and the Queen Consort on a chilly Horse Guards Parade as he began a two-day state visit to the UK.

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.

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.

South African President State Visit to the UK
Mr Ramaphosa meets the Prince and Princess of Wales at the Corinthia Hotel, London (Justin Tallis/PA)

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.

Coldstream Guards
Members of the Number 7 Company of the Coldstream Guards on parade during the state visit (Yui Mok/PA)

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.

The pomp and ceremony began as soon as the president’s motorcade first arrived at Horse Guards Parade with the King’s Life Guard, positioned on Whitehall, giving a salute.

South African President State Visit to the UK
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, with the King and Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales (Yui Mok/PA)

In nearby Green Park, 41 volleys were fired by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and 62 were fired at the Tower of London by the Honourable Artillery Company – an extra 21 for the City of London.

The Captain of the Guard of Honour, Major Andrew Dickinson of Number 7 Company The Coldstream Guards, marched forward and asked the South African President: “The Guard of Honour from Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards is formed up and awaiting your inspection. May I have your permission to accompany you, Sir, please?”

Mr Ramaphosa was joined by the King as he cast his eye over the troops walking a few steps behind his guest as he inspected the soldiers.

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