The Queen hosted a dinner for Commonwealth leaders and their spouses tonight in the Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery.
Aides said it was the first time she had ever hosted a dinner in the picture gallery during her 66 year-reign, although other members of the Royal Family have.
At tonight’s black tie dinner, the 130 guests enjoyed a three-course meal washed down with wines from England, New Zealand, Australia, and Cyprus.
A steady stream of world leaders began arriving at Buckingham Palace shortly before 7pm.
Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the first to arrive to the dinner, wearing a dark green and black evening gown with red patent heels, and was accompanied by her husband Philip May.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau smiled and waved to the cameras as he arrived alone for a drinks reception ahead of the dinner. He earlier admitted he’d be missing the royal wedding next month, saying: ‘I of course wish them the very best but I have important responsibilities elsewhere.’
The lavish dinner is ahead of anointing the Queen’s successor on Friday, as she told foreign dignitaries earlier today of her ‘sincere wish’ that they pick Prince Charles to take over as leader of the Commonwealth.
The Queen hosted a dinner for Commonwealth leaders and their spouses tonight in the Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery. Pictured l-r: The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and Prime Minister Theresa May in the Blue Drawing Room
Her Majesty greeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a receiving line for the Queen’s Dinner for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Britain’s Prince Charles greets India’s Prime Narendra Modi in a receiving line for the Queen’s Dinner on Thursday night
Prince Harry speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a reception after a receiving line
Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the first to arrive to the dinner, wearing a black evening gown with red patent heels, and was accompanied by her husband Philip May
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives with her husband. The couple are included in the 130 guests expected to attend the Queen’s Dinner on Thursday night
THE MENU FOR THE QUEEN’S DINNER
Watercress Panna Cotta with quails’ eggs and parmesan shortbread
Filet of halibut with salmon quenelles, asparagus and truffles, selection of spring vegetables, Jersey royal potatoes, avocado and tomato salad
Rhubarb and ginger mousseline
Windsor Great Park Vineyard 2014 English quality sparkling wine
Eradus Awatere Valley sauvignon blanc 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
Mornington Peninsula pinot noir Crittenden Estate 2016
Australia Kyperounda Commandaria Pitsilia Mountains, Cyprus 2008
One-by-one luxury cars arrived to the palace, each dropping off a foreign leader in black tie attire.
Representatives of each of the 53 member nations arrived in a convoy of Range Rovers, each escorted by a detective.
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull was accompanied by wife Lucy, while New Zealand’s visibly pregnant Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern arrived with her partner Clarke Gayford.
There were plenty of colourful outfits, with many guests arriving in traditional dress for the dinner in the Palace’s picture gallery.
India’s Narendra Modi was the last to arrive.
The Queen and Prince Charles will receive Commonwealth Heads of Government and their spouses in the Blue Drawing Room, before moving to the Picture Gallery for the night’s meal, followed by a speech from Her Majesty.
Normally she would use the Ballroom as a banqueting venue but that was used today for the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Often the venue for royal drinks receptions, the gallery was created by John Nash as part of his transformation of Buckingham House into a palace for George IV from 1825 and designed as a setting for his art collection.
The 47-metre room contains works from many periods, almost all acquired by one of four great picture collectors: George IV, his father George III and grandfather Frederick, Prince of Wales, as well as perhaps the great royal picture collector, Charles I.
The first wine served, Windsor Great Park Vineyard 2014 English quality sparkling wine, is a commercial operation on the Crown Estate (ie not the Royal Family’s own vineyard).
Every guest had their own butter dish. Among the china used was a Green Sevres dessert service from the 1790s made of soft-paste porcelain for Louis XVI. It was purchased by George IV when he was Prince Regent and the service was used at Carlton House in the 1820s.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) attended and earlier admitted he’d be missing the royal wedding next month, saying: ‘I of course wish them the very best but I have important responsibilities elsewhere’
Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull was accompanied by wife Lucy. There were plenty of colourful outfits, with many guests arriving in traditional dress for the dinner in the Palace’s picture gallery
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness arrives with his wife. Britain’s relationship with the Commonwealth has been clouded by diplomatic missteps and the legacy of empire, including the Windrush scandal
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland arrives to attend The Queen’s Dinner during The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, at Buckingham Palace
Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle attended a Women’s Empowerment reception hosted by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson . Prince Harry joined the dinner later on
Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle attended a Women’s Empowerment reception hosted by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Prince Harry is expected to join the dinner later on.
The morning’s spectacle of pomp and pageantry saw guests from around the world welcomed with a guard of honour with flag bearers displaying the flags of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states.
Before the dinner, Her Majesty, accompanied by Charles hosted a lunch reception for new Heads of Government, who have never attended CHOGM before.
She chatted with the Prime Minister of the Bahamas Hubert Minnis and Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The Prince of Wales was seen talking with Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
In a highly unusual move earlier in the day, the Queen, who turns 92 on Saturday, made clear her thoughts on succession, as she said she hoped her son would be able to ‘carry on the important work started by my father in 1949’.
The position is not hereditary, but Prince Charles, who is also the heir to the thrones of 16 Commonwealth nations, is expected to get the nod, despite unease among ardent republicans such as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Among the china used was a Green Sevres dessert service from the 1790s made of soft-paste porcelain for Louis XVI. It was purchased by George IV when he was Prince Regent and the service was used at Carlton House in the 1820s. Pictured: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari arrives to attend The Queen’s Dinner
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives to attend The Queen’s Dinner
One-by-one luxury cars arrived to the palace, each dropping off a foreign leader in black tie attire. Pictured: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi with his wife
Representatives of each of the 53 member nations arrived in a convoy of Range Rovers, each escorted by a detective. Pictured: Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina
What is the Commonwealth?
Known formally as the Commonwealth of Nations, the group is a free association of 53 member states.
It dates back about 75 years and followed the decolonisation of the British Empire.
As countries sought greater self-governance in the mid-20th century, a new body was set up which united members states not by any legal obligation, but instead by shared values of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights.
The Commonwealth was formally constituted by the London Declaration, which established the members as ‘free and equal’ in 1949.
The Queen remains head of state for 16 member states, she has no formal position in several other nations of the Commonwealth, such as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The Commonwealth accounts for about a third of the planet’s population, or 2.4 billion people.
Downing Street said on Monday that a decision on whether Charles should succeed his mother as Commonwealth head was expected from the heads of state on Friday, and reports have stated the mood is Charles will get their backing.
Born out of the former British empire, the voluntary organisation, covering a third of the world’s population, typically focuses on development and democracy, but is placing greater attention on boosting trade.
During the two days of talks, the group is hoping to agree an ocean governance charter, an agenda for trade and investment, and a declaration on tackling cyber crime.
Given its highly diverse membership, if agreements can be struck within the Commonwealth, they can likely achieve wider support.
At the last Commonwealth summit in 2015, leaders struck a deal on climate change that helped pave the way for the Paris agreement days afterwards.
Friday’s sessions take place at Windsor Castle, west of London, where the leaders are left entirely alone to discuss whatever they wish.
On Thursday morning, the streets around Buckingham Palace were cordoned off, as motorcades carried guests into the forecourt for the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
The royals were out in force for the opening ceremony, with the Queen and Charles joined by the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal, the Countess of Wessex and the Duke of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
Queen Elizabeth, who has been the group’s symbolic figurehead since 1952, gave up long-haul travel in support of the biennial summit in 2013 and the 2020 gathering is set to be held in Malaysia.
In her opening speech on Thursday morning, Queen Elizabeth spoke of her own ‘extraordinary journey’ as head of the Commonwealth, which started under her father King George VI with the London Declaration of 1949.
She said: ‘When I meet the young leaders of this century I meet my own lifelong commitment made in Africa in 1947 at the age of 21.
‘As another birthday approaches this week I’m reminded of the extraordinary journey I’ve been on and how much good has been achieved.’
The lavish dinner is ahead of anointing the Queen’s successor on Friday, as she told foreign dignitaries earlier today of her ‘sincere wish’ that they pick Prince Charles to take over as leader of the Commonwealth. Pictured: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena
Cyprus’s President Nicos Anastasiades arrives to attend The Queen’s Dinner during The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Buckingham Palace
Pictured: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. The morning’s spectacle of pomp and pageantry saw guests from around the world welcomed with a guard of honour with flag bearers displaying the flags of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states
The Queen and Prince Charles welcomed dozens of world leaders to feast at Buckingham Palace for a state dinner on Thursday evening. Pictured: The two earlier in the day
Queen Elizabeth continued: ‘It remains a great pleasure and honour to serve you as head of the Commonwealth and to observe with pride and satisfaction that this is a flourishing network.
‘It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations – and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales will carry on the important work started by my father in 1949.
‘By continuing to treasure and reinvigorate our associations and activities I believe we will secure a prosperous and more sustainable world for those who follow us.
‘A world where the Commonwealth generosity of spirit can bring its gentle touch of healing and hope to all.’
The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is being held in London for the first time in two decades.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are pictured riding in a car along The Mall in London after the formal opening in Buckingham Palace of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta (left), Prime Minister Theresa May, the Queen and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland (right)
The Prince of Wales greets the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at Clarence House this afternoon, following an opening ceremony at Buckingham Palace
But Britain’s relationship with the Commonwealth has been clouded by diplomatic missteps and the legacy of empire. May had to apologise this week after it emerged that some people who came to the U.K. from Caribbean decades ago had been refused medical care in Britain or threatened with deportation because they could not produce paperwork to show their right to residence.
The Commonwealth is officially committed to democracy and human rights, but its rights record is mixed. Many look with pride on the organisation’s role in the 1970s and ’80s in trying to end apartheid in South Africa.
But many Commonwealth nations have been plagued by corruption or destabilised by coups. Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, pulled his country out of the group in 2003 after it was suspended for widespread human rights abuses. Gambia quit in 2013, calling the Commonwealth a ‘neocolonial institution.’ It rejoined earlier this year.
Still, the Commonwealth provides support for democracy and corruption-fighting, and gives its smaller members the chance to be part of an international network. Attempts to expand the club beyond former British colonies have had modest success, with Mozambique and Rwanda joining in recent years.
The survival of the Commonwealth owes much to the commitment of the queen, who has visited almost every member country – often multiple times – over her 66-year-reign.
What are the rules of succession for the head of the Commonwealth?
The Queen, who turns 92 in April, was proclaimed Head of the Commonwealth at her coronation when she was head of state in seven of its eight members, and wants Prince Charles to succeed her.
But it is not a hereditary position that will pass automatically to the Prince of Wales, who will be head of state in only 15 of the 53 member nations that now make up the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Secretariat insists the leader must be chosen by Commonwealth heads of government, such as the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Canada.
Many want an elected head to make the organisation more democratic, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet others, such as the former Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key, think differently. He argued in 2015 that the succession ‘should just go with the crown’.
In a highly unusual move the Queen made clear her thoughts today, telling the presidents and prime ministers gathered at Buckingham Palace she hopes one day they will choose Charles to carry on the important work started by her father.
Earlier this year it was reported that the the topic would be discussed by the world leaders when they go into retreat at Windsor Castle, holding informal discussions without aides or advisers present.
Downing Street said on Monday that a decision on whether Charles should succeed his mother as Commonwealth head was expected on Friday, with the Prince of Wales widely expected to be given the nod.
Later Dr Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of Grenada, said he had ‘no difficulty’ with Charles taking over as head of the Commonwealth.
He told the BBC’s World At One: ‘It would be good news, the Queen herself does very well and certainly we have been fortunate to have her leadership of stable leadership over this period.
‘But having the Prince of Wales would certainly not be an unhelpful act at this point in time.’