King Charles on Tuesday made his first state visit since becoming Britain’s monarch, welcoming South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to Buckingham Palace.
Charles, 74, introduced traditional pomp and ceremony for the first time as head of state as Britain seeks to strengthen ties with its biggest trading partner in Africa.
Ramaphosa and his wife were formally welcomed by Charles’ eldest son and heir Prince William and his wife Kate to a central London hotel to mark the start of their two-day trip, the first state visit to the UK by a world leader since the former US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania in 2019.
Gun salutes and a ceremonial welcome by the King and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, followed by a grand procession of carriages along the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where a banquet will later be held in the President’s honor.
Ramaphosa will visit Westminster Abbey to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and see the memorial stone to former South African President Nelson Mandela. He will also address MPs in Parliament and meet British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Britain hopes the visit, planned ahead of Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September, will strengthen trade and investment ties between the two nations and emphasize the importance of links with the Commonwealth of Nations, the international organization that Charles now heads will clarify.
“This is a strengthening of the strong bilateral relationship we have with South Africa, a real opportunity to build on that close working relationship and to discuss some of the issues that concern us all,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Reuters.
The last state visit to the UK by a South African leader was that of President Jacob Zuma in 2010, when he was received by Charles and Camilla early in the trip.