Princess Kate dazzled in diamonds at her first state banquet Tuesday.
Kate entered the banquet wearing the sparkling Lotus Flower tiara and a gorgeous Jenny Packham red gown with Wang Huning, a senior Chinese political figure, one pair behind William.
Leading the way was the Queen, 89, with guest of honor Chinese President Xi Jinping. Prince Philip, 94, accompanied Xi’s wife Madame Pang Liyuan.
The seating arrangements placed Kate between Mr. Xi on her left and His Excellency Wang Huning on her right. William is seated between the wife of the Archbishop Welby and Madame Peng. William is three places away from the Queen, Kate two places.
The magnificent ballroom had been decked out in splendid royal style for the 130 guests, including floral arrangements of white roses, pink carnations and clematis that originated in China. Among the blooms was a Sophie, Countess of Wessex clematis variety – her husband, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, was among the guests. Earlier on Tuesday, the palace shared a photo of the Queen surveying the banquet preparations.
On the menu for the evening: filet of West Coast Turbot with lobster mousse, roasted loin of Balmoral venison in madeira and truffle sauce and plenty of bubbly and wine.
The Queen’s Speech
In a welcome speech to kick off the evening, Queen Elizabeth called the visit “a defining moment in this very special year for our bilateral relationship.
“I am confident that it will serve to highlight the sincerity and warmth of our friendship and to strengthen relations between our countries for many years to come.”
She recalled “with great fondness” the visit she and Philip made to China almost 30 years ago before noting, “rapid economic growth and development has transformed the lives of people across China and lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty: a huge and historic achievement with far reaching positive effects on people’s lives.”
And she offered a proud grandmotherly shout-out to Prince William, who has been fighting illegal wildlife trade in China and elsewhere.
“I was delighted that my grandson Prince William was able to witness these changes during his first visit to China earlier this year . . . He saw at first-hand the strong connections which bind our two countries together, be they in culture, education or business.”
Painstaking Preparations Fit for a Queen
Preparations for the banquet started six months ago, with invitations sent out two months ago. The meticulous table settings begin being arranged three days before the big night.
The Queen has hosted 110 state visits in her record-breaking 63-year reign.
At Buckingham Palace state banquets, each person gets 18 inches of space, with the napkin folded in the shape of a Dutch bonnet.
Six glasses are set: one each for water, Champagne, white wine, red wine, sweet wine or another Champagne for post-dinner and port. Each glass is he exact same distance from the edge as one at a neighboring setting.
Each table was set with pieces from the silver gilt Grand Service, which totals 5,000 items. George IV took delivery of the first consignment of the service in 1811 when he was Prince of Wales and added pieces through his reign.
Around the side of the grand Ballroom were displays of palace china, such as Green Sevres from 1790s France and the Rockingham Dessert Service that was commissioned by William IV in 1830.
Below stairs, copper pans dating from Queen Victoria’s reign (more than 100 years ago!) are used. “Staff report that they are lovely to use; they feel weighty and heavy,” a palace staffer told PEOPLE.
After guests are seated, they are served by one of the 19 serving stations, staffed with four of the Queen’s servants – including an under-butler, a page, a footman and a wine butler.
And even further tucked away are the 25,000 bottles of wine in the magnificent cellars.
Want to keep up with the latest royals coverage? Click here to subscribe to the Royals Newsletter.