State Banquets at Buckingham Palace

A State visit or a formal visit to the UK is from an overseas head of State.  The aim is more than just a ‘meet and greet’ but rather to strengthen the relationship between Britain and that particular country.  Part of the State visit includes the State Banquet.  The State Banquet is not just about a meal but rather pageantry, diplomacy, choreography, traffic management (more on this later) and of course polite smiling and chewing with your mouth closed.  The likes of you and I will never attend a State Banquet so, here is a window into what goes down.  You are welcome.

State Banquets have been happening since 1914 and are traditionally held in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace (BP).  It is 120 feet long, 59 feet wide and 44 feet high.  It is the largest room in BP.  It was built for Queen Victoria but today used for  investitures and formal occasions like State Banquets.  The table is horseshoe shaped and can be adjusted.  The table napkins are folded in Dutch-bonnet style (don’t worry, I don’t know what that is either).  The table is decorated with 100 12 inch ivory candles.  The table will be decorated with fruit (to eat) to include pineapple, plums, tangerines and grapes.

The Palace staff lay the table TWO days before the banquet.  A place setting measures 18 inches across and includes 6 glasses ( red wine, white wine, port, water and 2 glasses for champagne-1 for the toast and 1 for pudding, which means dessert. Not talking Jell-o here people).  Guests will have a side plate, glass butter dish, 2 forks, dessert spoon and fork and butter knife. Also, a silver-gilt knife, fork and spoon.  In addition to salt and mustard pot and pepper caster placed between every 4 guests.  The average invite is usually around 170 guests.  Wow. Am guessing BP has a rather large dishwasher.

The banquet is served by 100 strong team of footmen who are dressed in red and gold uniforms and deliver food to the servers.  Pages are dressed in dark blue and serve the guests.  A system of traffic lights keep those workers synchronised.  Blue lights=stand by and Amber lights= serve the food (the people are hungry).

On the table there are 23 flower arrangements.  It takes the Royal Florist 36 hours to prepare the flower arrangements.  She is then paid in flowers-just kidding.

When you arrive to the State Banquet at BP you will sit down to a 4 course meal (Fish, meat, pudding and fruit).  The menu is always written in French because that is the classic language of gastronomy.  As the guests arrive each guest is presented with a booklet. It includes: guest list, menu/wine list, the music will be played, and the seating plan.  The booklet is decorated with the national colour of the visiting nation.  The end of the banquet is signalled by the arrival of 12 pipers (Scots or Irish guards) and the Queen’s piper too.  This tradition goes back to the days of Queen

A fun time for all but no doggie bags.  Shame.




  1. Lloyd · March 4, 2015

    your Aunt Ida, attended a state banquet, did she not ?

    • samdfb1 · March 4, 2015

      She did not. I am sure of it.

  2. Phil Taylor · March 7, 2015

    If they set the table two days early won’t the plates be a little dusty?

  3. akaleistar · March 7, 2015

    What a fascinating look at a state banquet!

    • samdfb1 · March 7, 2015

      Thanks! And thanks for stopping by. 😉

  4. Amazing! Good to know what goes on at a State Banquet as I’m highly unlikely to ever attend one!

    • samdfb1 · April 4, 2015

      I think I can safely say the same. Thanks for stopping by!

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