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Kate at state banquet: what the Duchess needs to know

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This week the Duchess of Cambridge is helping roll out the red carpet for the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The highlight of the state visit is the banquet at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. Her attendance is another sign of her growing status within the family. While the Duchess, née Kate Middleton, is now a polished public performer, she will have to prepare carefully for the engagement. Here's what she needs to know.

kate middleton © Photo: Getty Images

Kate will be given notes on the guests nearest to her

Around 170 guests will dine in the palace ballroom, sitting around a horseshoe-shaped table, laden with flower decorations, candelabra and six glasses per person – for water, a champagne toast, red and white wines, a dessert wine and port.

It takes three days to lay the table and the Queen, a meticulous hostess, likes to run her eye over the preparations. Just as she will personally show the president and his wife to their suite of rooms.

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Where to sit

Kate will be given notes on where she's sitting and who she will be next to. The Countess of Wessex recalls that on one occasion she wasn't in her place by the time the Queen was about to start her speech.

"I shan't forget the look I got when I couldn't find my chair and she was looking to do her speech," she joked during ITV's documentary Our Queen.

"I decided I might study the notes a little more carefully next time."

buckingham palace © Photo: Getty Images

The Queen likes to run her eye over the preparations personally

Who to talk to

The Queen was brought up with old style table manners, which she still finds useful to negotiate tricky situations. These require that you speak to the person on your left for the first course, changing to the right for the second, alternating for each subsequent course.

Lewis Hamilton revealed how the royal matriarch instructed him on etiquette when he attended a state banquet.

"I was excited and started to talk to her but she said, pointing to my left, 'No, you speak that way first and I'll speak this way and then I'll come back to you'."

buckingham palace1 © Photo: Getty Images

The table takes three days to lay

Which cutlery to use

Guest are advised to start with the cutlery that is on the outside of their place setting and work their way in. They are served from 19 stations are set up around the room and manned by four staff – a page, footman, under butler and a wine butler.

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What to wear

Female royals are expected to wear formal evening gowns and tiaras. The elegant brunette has only worn a tiara on two previous occasions – the Cartier Halo tiara at her 2011 wedding and the Papyrus Tiara at the annual diplomatic reception in 2013.

On Tuesday, she may also be wearing the Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II, a sign of the monarch's personal esteem. It has been reported that Kate was given the award – a portrait of William's grandmother on a yellow ribbon – when the couple visited her at Balmoral in September.