When America’s first couple sit down to the lavish state banquet in Buckingham Palace on Monday evening, they will be treated to an exquisite menu that was six months in the planning, and a table that took royal staff three days to set.
Around 170 guests are expected at the dinner personally overseen by Queen Elizabeth II, in what will be a highlight of US President Donald Trump’s first state visit to Great Britain.
The royal banquet is a defining feature of a UK state visit, with the Queen personally inspecting every last detail of the opulent affair – from elaborate flower arrangements down to tablecloths folded in the shape of a Dutch bonnet – according to a detailed report from Britain’s Press Association (PA) news agency.
The dinner will take place on a horseshoe-shaped table in the palace’s ballroom, with the Queen and Trump seated at its head, flanked by First Lady Melania, heir to the throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
While the menu is yet to be revealed, it will be served on historic dinner sets with six drinking glasses, for water, a champagne toast, red and white wines, a dessert wine and port, reported PA.
Despite the months of planning the Queen is a “brisk eater,” according to the report. Under royal protocol guests cannot continue eating after the Queen has finished, meaning they won’t want to waste time getting stuck in.
That said, if Trump were to linger a little longer over his meal, nobody would stop him due to his status as a guest of honor.
The table arrangement is a painstakingly precise process. Each place is set exactly 18 inches (45 centimeters) apart, every chair is an equal distance from the table, and the same goes for the hundreds of glasses perched on the table.
Around this will be 19 serving stations – each staffed by a page, footman, under butler and wine butler – who will use a traffic light system to coordinate courses.
There is of course room for special dietary requests, with the Prince of Wales said to prefer a bowl of olive oil, rather than butter, with his bread. Not to mention the cushion that will be placed on his chair to help his back pain, PA said.
Along with the royal diners, Trump’s own adult children Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump will be attending the banquet. The other guests are reportedly invited based on their links to the US.
Trump, like the other male guests, will be expected to wear a white tie or national dress.
Beneath glittering chandeliers, a string orchestra will play throughout the evening but guests will need to keep an eye out for 12 pipers entering the room – an unusual tradition started by Queen Victoria that means the banquet is over.
That doesn’t mean the end of lavish dinners during Trump’s three-day UK visit though. On the second evening of the trip, it falls to the Trumps to reciprocate the royal banquet with a meal the following night at Winfield House, the residence of the US Ambassador to the UK.
The Queen won’t attend but in her place Prince Charles and Camilla will. This event will have a black tie dress code, and also require all the minute-by-minute planning of a state banquet.