-- The Duchess of Cambridge looked every bit a princess tonight as she and Prince William attended their first State Banquet in honor of the President of China and his wife Madame Peng.
Kate looked regal in a bespoke red Jenny Packham gown wearing the Lotus Flower Tiara on loan from the Queen, diamond chandelier earrings and a stunning diamond bracelet. She first wore the Lotus Flower Tiara (or Papyrus Tiara, as it’s sometimes called) at the 2013 Diplomatic Reception. It's only the third time the Duchess has worn a tiara.
There was speculation that the Duchess may have worn the late Princess Diana’s Cambridge Lovers Note Tiara, which was a gift from the Queen to William’s mother, because it bears the Duke And Duchess of Cambridge’s name. Instead, Kate appeared to give a nod to Chinese culture wearing a red dress which symbolizes luck, good fortune and joy, and selecting the Lotus Flower Tiara which also has great historical significance in China.
The 170 guests included nearly all of the Queen's children, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne, and Edward, with an absent Prince Charles and Camilla. Guests dined on filet of West Coast turbot with lobster mousse and Balmoral venison in a Madeira sauce, braised cabbage and potatoes and butternut squash. Music included traditional Chinese folk songs interspersed with contemporary classics including The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and “Nobody Does it Better,” the theme from the 1977 James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.”
The Queen paid tribute to President Xi during the evening toast.
"Mr. President,” she began. “Prince Philip and I are delighted to welcome you and Madame Peng to Buckingham Palace this evening. Your visit to the United Kingdom marks a milestone in this unprecedented year of cooperation and friendship between the United Kingdom and China, as we celebrate the ties between our two countries and prepare to take them to ambitious new heights."
As is tradition, the Queen exchanged gifts with the Chinese President earlier in the day, presenting a pair of Royal Crown Derby candlesticks and the sonnets of Shakespeare in a leather box. The Chinese President is known to be a Shakespeare aficionado. She and Prince Philip also gifted a silver framed set of photographs which is a traditional gift to world leaders.
She recalled the warm memories she and Prince Philip had during their first visit.
"The United Kingdom and China have a warm and longstanding friendship,” said the Queen. “Prince Philip and I recall with great fondness our visit to China almost thirty years ago, where we were privileged to experience your country’s rich history and culture, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors: all unforgettable memories of China’s ancient civilization."
The historic visit came about on the heels of Prince William’s trip to China in March earlier this year. At that time he extended a personal invitation from the Queen for the President and Madame Peng to be guests at Buckingham Palace. The Queen acknowledged the Duke of Cambridge's role in her toast tonight.
"I was delighted that my grandson Prince William was able to witness these changes during his first visit to China earlier this year,” she said. “Like myself and Prince Philip, he visited not only your great cities of Beijing and Shanghai but also the beautiful province of Yunnan, and saw at first-hand the strong connections which bind our two countries together, be they in culture, education or business."
As with every state banquet, the Queen was involved in nearly every detail. This afternoon she was observed checking the table arrangement, flowers and menu.
"Mr. President, the relationship between the United Kingdom and China is now truly a global partnership,” the Queen told guests. “We have much reason to celebrate the dynamic, growing economic relationship between our countries as well as our success in working together to address pressing international challenges.”