The palace plans for state visits with polish and precision. A visit by President John Kufuor of Ghana last year was typical -- the itinerary was spelled out page by page, minute by minute.
"What we've got is the ceremonial, we call it, which is the program for the visit itself, which contains all the detail, all the timings for the entire time he's here, from the moment of arrival to the moment of departure," said Jonathan Spencer, the deputy comptroller for the Lord Chamberlains Office. "We've always had a book."
In the palace kitchens royal chef Mark Flanagan supervised the arrival lunch.
"You know, the guys take a lot of care," Flanagan said. "Every piece of fruit's polished, every leaf is polished, then of course we've got the worry that the china is irreplaceable, so it's a bit of a nervy job and we try not to let the youngsters do that one, just in case."
"You can never be good enough," said Philippus Steenkamp, the senior footman on the queen's floor. "There's always a margin for improvement."
"These shoes are virtually brand new," he said, polishing cloth in hand. "So they don't produce a good shine yet, 'cause the polish hasn't built up in layers yet. This'll be my No. 2 shoes and then for this afternoon, I'll wear my No. 1s."
"Buckingham Palace functions very well as a venue for a state visit because the layout of it and the room designs and the room sizes lend themselves very well to the different things that we put on whilst they're staying here," said Spencer. "I think they always feel slightly shell shocked when they arrive."
The president of Ghana arrived at the grand entrance and was greeted by the queen.
"The queen is saying to us, to the president of Ghana and to Ghanaians, 'Keep it up,'" said Annan Cato, Ghana's high commissioner to the United Kingdom. "'You're making it, and we're proud of you.' That's how we see it. That's what it is. That's the significance of the visit."
The highlight of the visit was a state dnner. With her visitors settled in, the queen focused on preparations, including inspecting the flower arrangements.
On the evening of the dinner, the queen's pages must be on the top of their game.
"Now the first course is fish, which is sole served with a white wine sauce, but if one of the guests has suddenly elected to become a vegetarian, tonight we do have a vegetarian course," said the senior courtier. " The first light you'll see'll be a blue light. And that light means take your place at the start of your service, and then on the green light, then you all lay your plates."
"Now, has anyone got any questions?" said the senior courtier. "It's important from my point of view that you know what you're doing tonight, OK? Don't be nervous and enjoy yourselves."
Prime Minister Tony Blair was a principal guest at the state dinner, one of many he attended during his 10 years in office.