A smiling Kate arriving.
The Queen and Prince Philip posed for photos with King Felipe and Queen Letizia before the event began.
Earlier today, Her Majesty awarded King Felipe with Britain’s highest honour and made him a Knight of the Garter. Felipe has become a "Stranger Knight" or "Extra Knight Companion" of the prestigious Order of the Garter. The last foreign royal to be invested as a Knight of the Garter was King Harald V of Norway in 2001.
We do love a tiara event here at 'Duchess Kate', and given the rarity of white-tie events on the royal calendar the State Banquet offers a wonderful opportunity for the treasures in the royal jewel vault to be showcased. It is William and Kate's second State Banquet - their first in honour of the Chinese President took place in 2015. Tonight marks two milestones for the Royal family - Harry's first State Banquet and reportedly Prince Philip's last ahead of his retirement later this summer. Reporters suggested the younger royals attended due to the closeness and history between the British and Spanish royal families. As children, William and Harry joined their parents for holidays with Felipe and his family in Majorca.
William, Kate and Harry joined Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Gloucesters, Kents in the Palace ballroom. The Duchess arrived with Spain's ambassador to London, Carlos Bastarreche-Sagues.
The royals take their seats.
The Royal Procession list.
It's very much a case of third time lucky for the Spanish State Visit which already had to be postponed due to political issues in Spain, and was postponed again this year due to Britain's snap election. The visit has been feted as another diplomatic step in continuing Britain's relationship with Spain as Brexit unfolds.
An enormous amount of planning goes into State Banquets, ensuring no detail is overlooked. According to the Royal family's website: "Preparations for a State Banquet begin well over a year in advance, but the final build of the State Banquet table starts around five days ahead of the arrival of the visiting Head of State. The operational arm of Buckingham Palace, The Master of the Household’s department take the main bulk of the responsibility for ensuring the Banquet runs according to plan."
The completed table features stunning flower decorations, candlebra and six glasses per person -water, red and white wines, a dessert wine, port and a champagne toast. 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. After the Banqueting table is put together, and the decorative display is delivered, unpacked and positioned in place, the final touches are added.
Sugarwork red carnations - the national flower of Spain - adorn the gold plates which petit fours were served on.
Preparations in the kitchens of Buckingham Palace begin as close to the event as possible — with every dish handmade from scratch. Every element of the State Banquet is inspected, checked and approved by the Queen, right down to the very last detail. Below, a look at the menu which included Scottish beef and dark chocolate and raspberry tart.
Ahead of the event the Duchess will have received notes on where she's sitting and who she will be next to. In order to avoid uncomfortable situations and to ensure all are included in conversation one speaks to the person on the left for the first course, changing to the right for the second, and alternating for remaining courses. The Countess of Wessex recalled one occasion where she couldn't find her seat as the Queen was about to make her speech during an interview for the ITV documentary Our Queen at Ninety: "I shan't forget the look I got when I couldn't find my chair and she was looking to do her speech, I decided I might study the notes a little more carefully next time."
Prince Harry sat beside The Marchioness of Cholmondeley.
Rose and her husband David live a short distance from William and Kate's country home Anmer Hall. Kate and Rose are said to be good friends- last year Kate hosted a gala for EACH at their home, Houghton Hall.
Prince William sat beside Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Queen's speech:
'This State Visit is an expression of the deep respect and friendship that describes relations between Spain and the United Kingdom. Just occasionally, a State Visit can provide an opportunity for great personal happiness also. So it was, more than a century ago, when your great-grandfather, King Alfonso the Thirteenth, met his future wife, Princess Victoria Eugenie, the grand-daughter of our Queen Victoria, in this very ballroom.
The new Queen of Spain cemented strong ties between us, a link honoured by the service in the Royal Navy of your grandfather, Don Juan, Count of Barcelona.
Prince Philip and I recall with affection the State Visit of 1986 made by your parents, during which King Juan Carlos addressed both Houses of Parliament. His Majesty was the first foreign monarch ever to do so, which was a tribute to his role in Spain’s transition to democracy and acknowledgment that he was a King for all Spaniards. Your father spoke proudly about Your Majesty that day. You had just come of age, swearing loyalty in your Parliament to the Spanish Constitution. These years later, those duties are now yours, supporting Spain’s thriving democracy. It is therefore altogether fitting that Your Majesty, too, has addressed our Houses of Parliament today.
The relationship between our two nations is dynamic and modern. We are NATO allies, striving together to improve security in Europe and across the globe. Our armed forces are currently working side by side in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, led last year by Spain and now by the United Kingdom. We remain deeply committed to the common defence and freedom of our countries.
There are so many facets to our shared experiences and close connections. Indeed, the lives of our peoples themselves are more intertwined than ever before. Thousands of Spanish students are studying at British universities, and Spanish scientists are working with British colleagues to tackle disease. We are also significant investors in each other’s economies, with the United Kingdom being the principal European recipient of Spanish overseas investment.
A relationship like ours, founded on such great strengths and common interests, will ensure that both our nations prosper, now and in the future, whatever challenges arise. With such a remarkable shared history, it is inevitable that there are matters on which we have not always seen eye to eye. But the strength of our friendship has bred a resilient spirit of cooperation and goodwill. Your Majesty, our countries are reliable partners and friends. We deeply appreciate the significant contribution that Spain continues to make to this country and assure you of our enduring friendship in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you all to rise and drink a toast to Their Majesties The King and Queen, and the people of Spain.'
An overview of the event.
In his speech, King Felipe said there been co-operation over security and he offered his condolences to the victims of the recent UK terrorist attacks.
A royal toast.
For Kate's first State Banquet in 2015 she chose her bespoke red Jenny Packham gown with the Papyrus/Lotus Flower tiara, the Queen's chandelier earrings, and two bracelets on loan from the Queen.
Kate looked stunning tonight.
The Duchess added a touch of regal sparkle in the form of her new 'go-to' tiara - the Cambridge Lovers Knot. Of course, the history of the piece is well known to all royalists. It was the signature tiara of Diana, Princess of Wales. With Diana's 20th anniversary taking place next month, it seemed a perfect time for Kate to give a nod to her late mother-in-law.
A refresher on the history of the tiara: it was commissioned from Garrard in 1913/1914 by Queen Mary, Queen Consort of King George V, using jewels she already had in her possession. Mary wanted to have a tiara created based on the design of her maternal godmother Princess Augusta of Hesse, the Duchess of Cambridge's 'Lover's Knot Tiara', whence comes the name. The original was a striking piece, and back then, lover's knot bows were very popular, so there were several similar ones made. The tiara features elements of the Gothic Revival style. The circle of the Cambridge Lover's Knot is made up of a lower semi-circular band, set with a row of brilliant cut diamonds. Where two adjacent arches meet, a pillar like structure is formed that rises up and ends in a round diamond, forming a diamond spike. There are nineteen diamond spikes of this nature and the size gradually decreases from the centre towards both ends.
|Order of Splendor|
In 1981, the day before Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, Her Majesty gave her soon-to-be daughter-in-law a red leather box, and inside lay the tiara. According to various media outlets young Diana exclaimed, "I have Brenda's rocks", referring to a nickname the British press had given the Queen. The Cambridge Lovers Knot became her signature, however, the princess found it quite heavy and headache-inducing - reportedly the reason she wore her family's Spencer Tiara quite often.
Following Charles and Diana's divorced in 1996 the tiara was returned to the Queen, and it was widely believed it would remain in the royal vaults unseen for years if not decades. Thankfully, the Duchess surprised us all at the 2015 Diplomatic Reception when she arrived wearing it.
Kate's tiara was not the only piece once worn by Diana. Ella Kay noted the diamond and pearl earrings the Duchess wore were a wedding gift from Collingwood Jewellers to Diana (the jewellers favoured by the Spencer family). They are part of Diana's private collection and I expect William gifted them to Kate at some point - a perfect match for the Lovers Knot tiara.
The dazzling effect did not end there. Kate's stunning statement necklace is from the royal jewel vault and loaned to the Duchess from the Queen.
The Ruby and Diamond Floral Bandeau Necklace was one of the Queen's wedding gifts from her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
More from the Queen's Jewel Vault: "It was part of the Greville bequest, the collection of jewelry left to Queen Elizabeth by the Hon. Mrs. Ronald Greville when she died. Mrs. Greville purchased the necklace from Boucheron in 1907. The intricate piece is set in silver and gold and features single rubies between diamond flowers. It’s an interesting bandeau format, a deep v-shape culminating in a diamond pendant. The Queen did shorten it, as she tends to do with necklaces, by removing the two smaller floral piece." The Queen has not worn the piece since the early 1980s.
|From Her Majesty's Jewel Vault|
Kate debuted a gorgeous new bespoke gown by Marchesa. The bespoke pink lace design is quite different to the signature style we've seen the Duchess favour up to this point. It features distinctive flared cuffs, a plunging neckline and a v-neckline at the back. It's very much a gown perfect for a princess. It's also interesting to see Kate opting for a new brand for bespoke pieces on such occasions.
The talented Laura noted the Marchesa Peplum Top features are incredibly similar to the top half of Kate's gown. Our reader Gabi also posted a look at the Pre-Fall 2017 Collection style and What Kate Wore shared the Tulle-Paneled Guipure Lace baby pink gown which features the same lace and colour as Kate's.
More from The Telegraph:
'Her gown was by New York-based brand, Marchesa. While she hasn't worn a dress by the label's main line- which is headed by duo Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig - before, the Duchess has worn a dress from their second, slightly more affordable line, Marchesa Notte to the opening night of 42nd Street in London's West End. The label is renowned for providing gorgeous red carpet looks for the likes of Halle Berry and Emma Watson, and so was a fitting choice for this evening.
This dusty-pink hue is one the Duchess of Cambridge has worn before, most recently at her sister Pippa's wedding, where she wore an Alexander McQueen dress in a similar shade. But colour aside, the Duchess branched out in terms of cut and shape, opting for a noticeably more low-cut design than those she usually adopts.'
The banquet offered a stunning array of looks. Queen Letizia looked amazing in a red embellished off-the-shoulder gown by Felipe Varela. The Queen accessorised with Cartier earrings, a Magrit clutch. Letizia's dazzling tiara is The Fleur de Lys. You can read more on the history of the piece over at Order of Splendor.
More on Her Majesty's tiara from the Mail Online "The Queen donned her Brazilian Aquamarine tiara, which is a favourite of the Queen's dresser, Angela Kelly, who describes it as 'majestic in appearance but cool and calming'. It was commissioned by the Queen from the then Crown jeweller Garrard in 1957, to match a necklace and earrings given by the President of Brazil to mark her coronation in 1953. She was so fond of the set that she wanted a matching tiara."
You can view a video of the banquet here.
The post will be updated if high-res images of Kate become available (unfortunately it's looking unlikely). We'll see the Duchess tomorrow for the opening of the new Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum.