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State Visits

Dates: tbc Time: tbc Where: Horse Guards Parade

State visits are formal visits to the UK by Heads of State from overseas, with the aim of strengthening Britain's relationships with other countries.

There are usually two incoming State visits each year. Invitations are sent on the advice of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The King acts as host to the visiting Head of State, who stays either at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or, occasionally, The Palace of Holyrood house in Edinburgh.

Visits normally begin with a ceremonial welcome attended by The King and other senior members of the Royal Family. If the guest is staying at Buckingham Palace, the welcome takes place on Horse Guards Parade.  After inspecting a guard of honour, the visiting President or Monarch then travels with The King in a Carriage Procession back to Buckingham Palace.

On the evening of the arrival day, the Head of State will attend a State Banquet in his or her honour. 

Best viewing points:

The Procession:

-       The Mall – For the carriage procession

-       Memorial Garden near Queen Victoria Memorial – For carriage procession and all our supporting units.

Gun Salute:

Green Park by Constitution Hill

Tower of London at Tower by the River Thames

Venue: Horse Guards Parade

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Household Division, Whitehall, London, United Kingdom

King Charles to Host His First State Visit at Buckingham Palace

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises on who to invite for a state visit, but it is the royals who are center-stage for the occasion.

the duke and the duchess of rothesay visit scotland visit scotland

As a Prince, Charles assisted with scores of state visits to the UK as his mother played host to heads of state from across the world. But today, the first state visit he will host himself as King is announced, as the President of the Republic of South Africa will visit the UK from November 22 to 24.

Buckingham Palace announced that the three-day trip will take place in a short statement today and said further details of the itinerary will made clear nearer the time. “The President of the Republic of South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by Dr Tshepo Motsepe, has accepted an invitation from His Majesty The King to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday 22nd November to Thursday 24th November 2022. The King and The Queen Consort will host the State Visit at Buckingham Palace,” the statement said.

cyril ramaphosa

State visits play an important role in strengthening the UK’s relationships with other countries, and the royal family has a key diplomatic part to play. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises on who to invite, but it is the royals who are center-stage for the duration of such visits, with the Queen having made many speeches and toasts to visiting heads of state. State visits are organized well in advance, and planning for this one began before Queen Elizabeth died.

Queen Elizabeth famously had a fond relationship with former South African President Nelson Mandela. She visited him in South Africa in 1995, one year after apartheid ended and the country rejoined the Commonwealth. Charles’s first visit to South Africa was in 1997 and he and Camilla returned in 2011. He also attended Mandela’s funeral in December 2013, representing his mother as she no longer carried out long-haul travel.

The last state visit to the UK from a South African president was in 2010 by President Jacob Zuma and Mrs Zuma. Prior to that, President Thabo Mbeki and Mrs. Mbeki visited in 2001 and President Nelson Mandela visited in 1996.

nelson mandela's state visit to london

Town & Country Contributing Editor Victoria Murphy has reported on the British Royal Family since 2010. She has interviewed Prince Harry and has travelled the world covering several royal tours. She is a frequent contributor to Good Morning America. Victoria authored Town & Country book The Queen: A Life in Pictures , released in 2021. 

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Cyril Ramaphosa is greeted by King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, during a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade in London on Tuesday

South African president makes first UK state visit of King Charles’s reign

Tory government eager to focus on trade rather than Cyril Ramaphosa’s refusal to put sanctions on Russia

The South African president has started a two-day state visit to the UK, the first since King Charles took the throne, with the Conservative government eager to focus on trade rather than challenge South Africa’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s trip has been much delayed due to Covid and only by chance became the first state visit of the king’s reign.

South Africa, along with Turkey, India and China, has been one of the big powers that have refused to use sanctions against Russia, while the youth wing of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) endorsed the sham referendums held in occupied Ukraine before the Kremlin’s illegal annexation of four regions .

Rishi Sunak, the Conservative prime minister, is due to hold talks with the South African leader in Downing Street on Wednesday, but in advance of the talks focused on how the two countries could join forces to “turbocharge infrastructure investment and economic growth together”.

The UK is the largest state contributor to the $8.5bn (£7.1bn) pledged by western partners to help South Africa transition away from its dependence on coal in a plan presented by Ramaphosa. South Africa would like the loans turned into grants.

The opening day of the visit is more focused on pageantry and the hospitality of the royal family at a state banquet, where the king will be joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales, who are also taking part in a state visit for the first time in their new roles.

The prince and princess officially greeted the president, meeting him at the Corinthia London hotel on Tuesday and then travelling with him to a ceremony at Horse Guards Parade.

Ramaphosa has also been given the chance to address both houses of parliament.

His wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, has not joined him due to eye surgery, but the foreign minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, did travel with the entourage, meeting the British foreign secretary, James Cleverly. Pandor has accused some European countries of “patronising bullying” in trying to force South Africa to choose between the west and Russia over Ukraine.

Ramaphosa arrives in the UK in need of a boost at home and abroad. Since ousting his predecessor, Jacob Zuma , as the head of the ruling ANC amid a raft of corruption scandals five years ago and then winning a general election, the 70-year-old has seen his authority, morally and politically, weakened.

Unemployment is estimated at 35% and violent crime remains endemic, while Ramaphosa has struggled to purge the ANC of graft and push through much needed changes that may bolster a flagging economy.

The president was forced to cut short his last visit to London – for the state funeral of the queen at Westminster Abbey in September – to deal with an electricity generation crisis at home. Rolling nationwide power cuts of up to 10 hours a day are crippling businesses and undermining an already faltering recovery from the Covid pandemic. Last week South Africa’s massively indebted public power company announced it had run out of money to pay for diesel fuel and so would impose a programme of outages for the foreseeable future.

Ramaphosa walks with the dean of Westminster, David Hoyle, during a visit to Westminster Abbey

Plans for a transition to renewable energy, on the agenda in London, have been stymied by resistance from figures within the ANC who are sceptical about such power sources and concerned the party may lose vital support among unions or businessmen connected to the coalmining industry.

Ramaphosa’s state visit comes more than a decade after the last by a South African leader, when Jacob Zuma visited the UK in 2010.

Zuma, a populist still facing multiple corruption charges, was vilified in the British media, leading to accusations from South Africans of entrenched racism . Sensitivities remain. South African officials have said they object to being lectured by western states, especially over their failure to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“There is a real danger for Ramaphosa that [the visit] will be viewed as too deferential to a colonial power. South Africa very much needs to feel that it is being listened to as an equal partner, not simply coming to kiss the ring of the new king,” said Chris Vandome, a senior research fellow at the Chatham House thinktank in London.

“The British quite often get the narrative very wrong. They talk about a great historic friendship but the historical relationship is often viewed very differently in South Africa.”

He added: “South African reasons for neutrality on Ukraine are complicated: narratives of Soviet support for liberation are projected on to a lattice of personal relationships between some South African and Russian political and business leaders. More importantly, South Africa felt let down by the faltering response to calls for assistance from the west during Covid-19, including on vaccine distribution and manufacture at the height of the pandemic.”

Ramaphosa, a former labour activist turned tycoon, faces a tough few weeks on the domestic front, with a parliamentary inquiry set to report on allegations that he is personally guilty of abusing his powers to cover up a theft of millions of dollars reportedly hidden at his game ranch. Though he is likely to escape impeachment, the charges of corruption have set back his effort to root out corruption in government. In mid-December, Ramaphosa will stand for re-election as party leader, the likely candidate for general elections next year.

Analysts expect him to win both contests, but largely because there are few other figures who can build a successful coalition of different interest groups. At the party level, the ANC expects to be punished by voters for its failure to tackle South Africa’s deep problems and its own.

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uk state visits

  • International
  • Foreign affairs

Announcement of the UK State Visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

The British High Commission in Pretoria welcomes the news that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will pay a State Visit to the UK.

uk state visits

The British High Commission in Pretoria has welcomed the news that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom to meet The King and The Queen Consort.

This is the first invitation of a State Visit made by His Majesty King Charles III.

British High Commissioner to South Africa, Antony Phillipson said:

I am delighted that President Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by Dr Tshepo Motsepe, has accepted an invitation from His Majesty King Charles III to pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday, 22 November to Thursday, 24 November 2022. The King and The Queen Consort will host the State Visit at Buckingham Palace. This will be the first State Visit hosted by His Majesty. It reflects the importance of the relationship between South Africa and the United Kingdom. The visit will offer a chance to celebrate our modern-day partnerships delivering prosperity and security for both countries, as well as to set out how we can work together bilaterally and globally to strengthen those links for the future.

Over the next few weeks the British High Commission will work closely with the Presidency, the Department for International Relations and Cooperation, and the South African government to finalise the details of the President’s State Visit.

His Majesty The King has visited South Africa on a number of occasions. His Majesty’s first visit was to Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town from 31 October to 5 November 1997. The King and The Queen Consort also visited Pretoria and Johannesburg from 2 to 6 November 2011. The King and Queen Consort also attended the funeral of President Nelson Mandela on 15 December 2013.

Her Late Majesty The Queen invited President Nelson Mandela to pay a State Visit to the UK in July 1996. She also invited President Thabo Mbeki to pay a State Visit to the UK in June 2001, and President Jacob Zuma to pay a State Visit to the UK in March 2010.

The press release from Buckingham Palace announcing the State Visit can be found here: Announcement of the State Visit by the President of South Africa ( PDF , 156 KB , 2 pages ) .

Further details of the State Visit programme will be announced in due course.

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Japanese Emperor Naruhito to pay state visit to UK, Buckingham Palace says

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Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako welcome Britain's Prince Charles prior to a court banquet at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

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