Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh are hosting King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain in a state visit this week.
They have been greeted with a ceremonial welcome on Horse Guards Parade at the start of their three-day tour.
Visits of this kind are still seen as extremely important in maintaining Britain’s diplomatic relationships with other nations.
This is the first state visit that will include Prince Harry in the ceremony; he will accompany the King and Queen of Spain on a visit to Westminster Abbey, where they will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
The Princes usually abstain from taking part in such occasions, citing their military commitments as the reasoning for their absence- although William and Kate did meet the Obamas informally during their 2011 state visit.
However, Harry's involvement looks set to increase now that he is no longer serving in the Army.
Prior to the Spanish royals’ arrival, while London slept, the Household Division rehearsed their military manoeuvres as dawn broke for this important state ceremonial event.
The idea of rehearsing in the small hours is to cause as little disruption to the capital as possible.
Overall, more than one thousand troops will take part in the visit.
Major Ben Bathurst, Major General Commanding the Household Division, will be in charge of all the troops on parade.
The Foot Guards and Cavalry of the Household Division, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the Honourable Artillery Company and The Queen’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force are providing the military component for the State Visit, with important ceremonial events taking place on each day.
State Visits are the highest form of diplomatic contact between Sovereign States and are high points in the ceremonial season.
In 2015, the Chinese president Xi Jinping was similarly honoured in a controversial state visit.
Many disagreed with the ceremonies being carried out in his honour due to concerns over human rights abuses and fears of the security risks posed by a nation rumoured to be involved in international espionage.
Military Pomp & Ceremony
This morning, just before midday, a Guard of Honour of 96 Rank and File of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards with The Queen’s Colour and the Pipes and Drums of the Battalion, formed up on Horse Guards Parade.
As the King and Queen of Spain arrived through the archway, the Flagman unfurled the National Flag of Spain on the roof of Horse Guards.
As the King alighted from his car and placed his foot upon the first step of the Royal Pavilion, Royal Salutes were fired across London, with a 41 Gun Salute from Green Park by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
Having fired the salute in Green Park, The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery then moved and took up position South of the Queen Victoria Memorial facing North.
As Her Majesty greets the King, the National Anthem of Spain was played.
The Captain of the Guard of Honour on Horse Guards Parade Major Charlie Gair then marched forward to present his Guard of Honour in fluent Spanish:
“The Guard of Honour of 1st Battalion Irish Guards is present and ready for your inspection Sir”.
According to tradition, the Queen then invited the King of Spain to inspect the Guard of Honour and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh accompanied him.
The King and Queen along with The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh were then escorted to Buckingham Palace by The Sovereign’s Escort, with two Standards, provided by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
During their move to Buckingham Palace, street liners were provided by Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards and F Company Scots Guards.
The Guard of Honour found by 1st Battalion Irish Guards have given a Royal Salut whilst the Band of the Welsh Guards played the National Anthem of Spain followed by the National Anthem of the United Kingdom.
A State Banquet will be held later this evening at Buckingham Palace, at which the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra will play music; twelve Pipers from The Highlanders The 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland will play at its end.
Tomorrow evening, The Queen’s Colour Squadron Royal Air Force will form a Guard of Honour at the Guildhall for the City of London Corporation Banquet with the Lord Mayor of London, HRH The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence.
Finally, on Friday 14th July at 10am the Buckingham Palace Detachment of the Queen’s Guard found by Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards will turn out and give a Royal Salute for the departure of The King and Queen of Spain.