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A Major Ceremonial Event in Windsor

The State Visit of Mr Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa

12.00 Tuesday 12th June 2001

Mr Thabo Mbeki

Mr Thabo Mbeki

This story is divided into two parts. This is Part One.
Click here to go to Part Two.

Also, click here to see photographs of the rehearsal for this event which took place at dawn on Monday 11th June 2001

Queen's Jubilee Celebrations - be here in 2002!


Part One - The Preparations

At 12 noon on Tuesday 12th June, The President of The Republic of South Africa, Mr. Thabo Mbeki with Mrs. Zanele Mbeki were welcomed by HM The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at the start of their State Visit to the UK. The official welcoming ceremony took place in the Home Park and was followed by a procession through the streets of Windsor up to the Castle. Large crowds gathered to extend a warm welcome to Nelson Mandela's successor, Mr Mbeki who had earlier landed at Northolt where he had been greeted by The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

The Band on their way to The Home Park

The Band of the Grenadier Guards marching to The Home Park

A rehearsal had taken place in the early hours of Monday morning which we have also photographed. This article is available here.

Prior to the arrival of the President at noon, there was much activity along the route. From early morning crews had been sanding the route to allow greater grip for the horse, the police were out in force and of course the banners and crush barriers had been in place for several days before hand.

As the crowds gathered, a band played at the top of Peascod Street, and another marched down to River Street and entertained the crowd. A little while before the procession, soldiers had been positioned at eight paces apart to line the route. These 'half companies' were individually commanded, either to 'present arms' as other troops passed by, 'slope arms', 'stand at ease' or 'stand easy' as the situation demanded.

Ceremonial occasions such as these can be very stressful for the forces taking part. It is often hot and as they are wearing full ceremonial dress, it is not surprising that one or two fall by the wayside, as occurred during today's event by the Parish Church. I recall being present at a Garter Service in the Castle many years ago on a blistering hot day in June, yet the guards were required to stand for almost two hours in the intense heat. Several were casualties on that occasion so the regular commands to come to attention and to otherwise move, are welcome, though small, relief.

On occasions such as these not much time passes without something to watch and at this point it was the turn of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards to march to the Home Park followed by the Sovereign's Escort, The Household Cavalry.

Grenadier Guards

The 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards pass The Curfew Tower

Sovereign's Escort

The Sovereign's Escort on their way to the Home Park

Equally impressive are The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery who were to fire a salute as President Mbeki arrived in the Home Park.

The Kings Troop on their way to the Home Park

It was interesting to note at close quarters how hard the 'brakeman' had to work as the King's Troop negotiated the hill down past the Curfew Tower. A little while earlier a small group of Troopers had marched to their position at the top of Thames Street. As the King's Troop rode by, it was the task of each of these Troopers to take charge of the brake handle at the back of each gun carriage to slow the heavy gun and ammunition 'limber' to prevent the horses ahead being overrun. As each gun carriage passed you could see the Troopers constantly adjusting the brake as the hill was negotiated. More than once the heavy wheels would lock up momentarily as they slipped on the sand covered road.

Trooper at the brakes

The Queen and the Duke with other members of the welcoming party traveled in the royal cars from the castle to the Home Park.

The Quuen on her way to the Home Park

The Queen's Rolls Royce makes its way to The Home Park

Events such as these are major ceremonial occasions. The route is lined with over 90 flagpoles decorated with banners in the colours of both the South African Republic and the United Kingdom. The Ceremonial Route today began in the Home Park where a Reception Pavilion had been specially constructed, overlooked by the imposing sight of Windsor Castle. The Reception Party, led by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, also included Michael Trend, newly re-elected as Conservative Member of Parliament for Windsor, and the new Mayor of Windsor, Cllr. John Tryon. Also present were ministers of the South African government.

In front of the Reception Pavilion, a Guard of Honour was provided by the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards parading the Queen's Company Colour, The Royal Standard of the Regiment and the Band of the Regiment together with the Corps of Drums of the Battalion. One of the most impressive sights during any State occasion such as this is the presence of the Household Cavalry and the Blues and Royals in addition to The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery who fired a royal salute as the President and his party arrived.

Following the formal greetings, The Queen and President Mbeki took their place in the lead carriage, the 1902 State Landau. The procession was headed by two divisions of the Sovereign's Escort (The Household Cavalry) followed by six further open Landaus carrying other members of the official party. The procession passed the Riverside Station, in Datchet Road, turned left into Thames Street, passed below the castle walls and proceeded up the hill around the Curfew Tower, along the High Street, past the Guildhall and from there to Park Street and into the castle from the Long Walk entrance, the Cambridge Gate. Soldiers and navy sailors lined the route throughout.

The Pavilion in Home Prak receiving the final touches

The Pavilion in the Home Park receiving the final touches
the day before the ceremony

If you have any photographs of this, or indeed any event that took place in Windsor, we would be most grateful!

Press Release from Buckingham Palace

At the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen, The President of the Republic of South Africa accompanied by Mrs. Mbeki, will pay a State Visit to the United Kingdom from Tuesday, 12th June to Friday, 15th June 2001. The President and Mrs. Mbeki will be staying at Windsor Castle.


The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh paid State Visits to South Africa in November 1999 and March 1995, the year after it rejoined the Commonwealth. Earlier visits to South Africa have included that by The Duke of Edinburgh with the Earl of Wessex in November 2000 on behalf on The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. The Duke of Edinburgh in February-March 1996, in his capacity as Grand President of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League. The Duke of Edinburgh also visited South Africa in May 1994 to represent The Queen at the Inauguration of President Mandela. The Princess Royal visited South Africa in November 1994. President Mandela paid a State Visit to the United Kingdom in July 1996.


End of Part One

Click here for Part Two - The Procession

Views of the rehearsal at dawn the previous day


A Profile of Thabo Mbeki

South Africa Information Web Site

Queen's Jubilee Celebrations - be here in 2002!


For more details and photographs of other State Visit please see

State Visit Home Page

The Royal Windsor Web Site will report all events such as these and provide a permanent record together with references to the background of such events wherever possible. Any information or additional material about Windsor is always welcomed and acknowledged. Copies of photographs or texts can be emailed to the Editor, The Royal Windsor Web Site


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