Secrets of the royal banquet being prepared for Donald Trump
The Queen – the nation’s longest-reigning monarch – is a consummate professional when it comes to hosting state visits.
Her experienced household will be running like clockwork as it prepares to entertain Donald Trump at a lavish royal banquet.
The US president will be wined and dined in the Buckingham Palace ballroom on Monday evening.
Around 170 guests – who have been invited on the basis of their cultural, diplomatic or economic links to the US – will dine on a exquisite menu prepared by royal chefs and served on historic, priceless dinner sets.
Every element of the state banquet is inspected, checked and approved by the Queen, down to the very last detail.
Preparations for the banquet will have begun six months before the big event and it takes palace staff three days to lay the table.
Tablecloths and napkins – folded in the shape of a Dutch bonnet – cruet sets, elaborate floral decorations, priceless plates, candelabra and six glasses – for water, a champagne toast, red and white wines, a dessert wine and port, will all have carefully been put in order.
Every place setting must be precisely 18 inches apart – with measuring sticks used to ensure absolute precision.
The footmen must make sure every chair is exactly the same distance from the table and each glass is the same distance from the front edge of the table.
The palace’s wine cellar holds around 25,000 bottles; however, the alcohol drunk at state banquets does not come from this source but is bought for the event by the Government.
Nineteen stations are set up around the table, each manned by four staff – a page, footman, under butler and a wine butler – who use a traffic light system to co-ordinate the serving of courses.
Detailed diagrams are used to illustrate the serving plans and a list of special instructions sets out any dietary requirements and requests for royals and other guests.
Staff must also put in the place a special cushion on the Prince of Wales’s seat to ease his back pain.
Charles also likes a bowl of olive oil, rather than butter pats, at his setting for his bread.
The Queen always inspects the horseshoe-shaped table herself in the afternoon before every state banquet, making her way round the room and checking the preparations with the Master of the Household, Vice-Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt.
The dress code is tiaras and white tie – or national dress.
Members of the royal family wear sashes and badges known as orders if they have been given them in recognition of royal service.
Just before the banquet begins, members of the royal family will be lined up, usually in the White Drawing Room, to be personally introduced to Mr Trump and First Lady Melania.
Then, in the Music Room, the Queen and the American couple will be formally introduced to and shake hands with each and every guest as they file into the ballroom.
The Queen and the president will then make their way into the room side by side.
The monarch will be seated next to Mr Trump at the top end of the vast U-shaped table, along with Mrs Trump, Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Other royals will be spread around the table between the distinguished guests.
Speeches take place at the start at 8pm when the Queen and Mr Trump will both make a speech and propose toasts to one another, followed by the playing of the national anthems.
The Queen, who is now 93, is said to be a brisk eater and the banquets are not a lingering affair.
A string orchestra usually provides the musical backdrop.
The end of the banquet is signalled by the arrival of 12 pipers processing round the room, a tradition begun by Queen Victoria.
Afterwards, the Queen will accompany Mr and Mrs Trump to the state rooms for coffee.