22 things you didn't know about the Queen's royal banquets – and they're so surprising

Some of these palace rules are mind-blowing!

Sophie Hamilton

A royal banquet at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle is a grand affair. Heads of state, Britain's aristocracy and a whole host of important dignitaries have had the pleasure of dining with Her Majesty the Queen over the years.

MORE: 3 unusual things Prince Charles can't go without at royal banquets - royal chef exclusive

We imagine grand table settings, the finest food and fascinating regal chit chat over goblets of the world's best wines (ok we're getting a bit carried away with goblets, but it all sounds so fancy).

If you've ever wondered exactly what a state banquet at the palace involves, we have all the details for you  – from the positioning of cutlery to what to wear and who you can and can't speak to. Yes, there are rules for this.

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WATCH: Buckingham Palace staff prepare for a state banquet!


Facts about the Queen's royal banquets:

1. The Queen is a professional when it comes to hosting state visits. The monarch inspects the horseshoe-shaped table herself in the afternoon before the banquet, checking the preparations with the Master of the Household.

2. Banquets take a long time to prepare for – six months in fact. It also takes palace staff three days to lay the table!


An impressive banquet for the President of Ireland at Windsor

3. The table settings are fascinating. Napkins are folded in the shape of a Dutch bonnet and there are six glasses for each person - for water, a champagne toast, red and white wines, dessert wine and port, which are all carefully placed in order.

4. Now, this is precise: every place setting must be precisely 18 inches apart - with measuring sticks used to ensure absolute precision.

5. The Queen's footmen ensure sure every chair is exactly the same distance from the table and each glass is the same distance from the front edge of the table.

6. Nineteen stations are set up around the table, each manned by four staff - a page, footman, under butler and a wine butler.

MORE: Kate Middleton's most unusual eating habits revealed – and Princess Charlotte has inherited one


The Queen makes a toast during a banquet at Windsor Castle

7. Staff use a traffic light system to co-ordinate the serving of courses.

8. Detailed diagrams are used to illustrate the serving plans and a list of special instructions sets out any dietary requirements and requests for royals and other guests.

9. Palace staff have instructions to place a special cushion on the Prince of Wales's seat to ease his back pain. Charles also has a bowl of olive oil instead of butter for his bread.

10. There is a dress code for state banquets: formal gowns, often white tie, and tiaras for the ladies. National dress is also worn.

READ: How to bake the Queen's carrot cake! See the recipe by Buckingham Palace chefs


The Countess of Wessex arrives at a state banquet at the palace

11. The royal family wear sashes and badges known as orders if they have been given them in recognition of royal service.

12. Before dinner, speeches take place followed by toasts and the playing of the national anthems.

13. A string orchestra usually provides the musical backdrop to the banquet.

14. During the meal, guests are advised to start with the silverware that is on the outside of their place setting and work their way in.

15. The Queen is known to be a fast eater. There is actually a rule that stipulates when the monarch finishes her meal, everyone else must also put their knife and fork down too.

READ: Kate Middleton's daily diet revealed – what the Duchess eats for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks


The Queen sits beside the Duchess of Cornwall at a state banquet

16. It is important to note which side of the monarch you are sitting on. It is customary for the guest of honour to sit to the right of the Queen, and it follows that she will speak to that person during the first course of the dinner. She will then switch her attention to the person on her left for the following course.

17. Guests should also never leave an event before a royal unless special permission has been granted, and one should avoid any personal questions – polite small talk will suffice.

18. You should also never touch the Queen and only shake her hand if she offers it.

19. Do you know how to hold a teacup correctly? The correct way is to hold the top of your cup handle with your thumb and index finger and only sip from the same spot, to avoid multiple lipstick marks.

20. The end of the banquet is signalled by the arrival of 12 pipers processing round the room – a tradition that originated with Queen Victoria.

21. Former royal chef Graham Tinsley MBE told HELLO! that if the Queen is attending a heads of state banquet, then all the chefs have to meet at a police station and get a motorcycle ride into the castle or palace – for added security.

"For higher calibre banquets, we're required to put all our food, containers, knives and kitchen equipment through an X-ray machine whilst motorcycles then take us into the castle," explained Graham.

22. Some banquets with an elite guest list are even given code names to protect their security!

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