King Charles laments his lack of Gangnam Style at distinctly modern state banquet

Queen Camilla, King Charles III, President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol and his wife Kim Keon Hee ahead of the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace, London
The Queen and King alongside Yoon Suk Yeol, the president of South Korea, and his wife Kim Keon Hee at the state banquet at Buckingham Palace - Yui Mok

At first glance, the Buckingham Palace ballroom looked much as it has done for any state event in living memory. Only the most honoured of guests, welcomed into the monarchy’s headquarters, would have noticed the subtle changes that ensured this state banquet - the first since the Coronation - had a distinctly modern feel.

The glasses and plates on the top table had been carefully scrubbed of the EIIR cypher which endured for the 70 years of the late Queen Elizabeth’s reign and replaced with the CIIIR of her son.

The flowers included ferns dug up and repotted repeatedly under the King’s quest for sustainability.

And then there was the speech, which referenced one of the most popular K-pop bands in the world and saw the King lament his lack of “Gangnam Style”.

Telling his 171 guests of his affection for South Korea, he said: “Sadly, when I was in Seoul all those years ago, I am not sure I developed much of what might be called the Gangnam Style!”

The quip was a reference to arguably the most famous K-pop song of all, the 2012 hit Gangnam Style by Psy, which came with its own galloping dance craze.

It raised a chuckle from his audience, at the crescendo of a day in which the Royal Family pulled out all the stops to welcome the president and first lady of South Korea to London for the first state visit since the Coronation, in a show of intergenerational royal co-ordination.

The King and Queen welcome the President and First Lady of South Korea to London for the first State Visit since the Coronation
The King and Queen welcome the president and first lady of South Korea for the first state visit since the Coronation - POOL

At Horse Guards Parade, for the full pomp and ceremony of Britain’s military, the Queen and Princess of Wales wore the colours of the South Korean flag to greet their diplomatic guests, one in blue and the other in a vivid red cape.

In the evening, the Queen opted for red velvet while the King wore his white tie with the Garter Star and Thistle Star along with a new Grand Order of the Mugunghwa, presented to him earlier that day by the president.

The Princess of Wales wore a white Jenny Packham gown, earrings from the late Queen, the Royal Family order and the Strathmore Rose Tiara that once belonged the Queen Mother, King Charles’s beloved grandmother, and has not been worn since.

The Princess of Wales wore the Strathmore Rose Tiara which once belonged the Queen Mother
The Princess of Wales wears the Strathmore Rose Tiara which once belonged the Queen Mother - Yui Mok

It was a glamorous end to a day in which the King, his heir and their wives had worked together to host the president and first lady through a private lunch, which was briefly disturbed by news of a rocket launched by North Korea, and an exhibition of Royal Collection items relating to their country.

The Prince of Wales was heard to confirm a future “date in the diary” for them to meet again, while the Princess was heard, tantalisingly, to mention “karaoke”. President Yoon Suk Yeol is a known fan of karaoke who serenaded Joe Biden with his version of  American Pie at the White House, but his on-microphone performance at Buckingham Palace was limited to a warm speech of friendship.

The Queen presented Mrs Kim a pashmina hand embroidered with the Mugungwha – the national flower of South Korea – and the names of the first lady’s dogs, created by embroiderers from The Royal School of Needlework.

The King sprinkled his speech with pop culture references, from band BTS to BLACKPINK, whose four young female members were at the banquet and praised for their environmental campaigning. “I can only admire how they can prioritise these vital issues, as well as being global superstars,” he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty
Rishi Sunak and his wife, Akshata Murty, arrive at the banquet - Yui Mok

The late Queen Elizabeth II was represented, with her son recalling how she was “struck on her state visit to Korea in 1999 not just by the incredibly warm welcome she received across your country, but also by the beauty and harmony of the traditional villages and temples of Andong, amongst your country’s majestic mountains”.

Queen Camilla wore her late mother-in-law’s ruby and diamond Burmese tiara.

“Yeong-gug-e osin geos-eul hwan-yeonghabnida [Welcome to Britain],” the King said, quoting Korean poetry and referring to a 140-year-old partnership between the countries “in which close personal connections, fostered over many decades, have blossomed today into a real sense of affection, or jeong, between our societies at so many levels”.

Some 4,700 miles away, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in Vancouver, watching an ice hockey game and basking in the admiration of fans who knew the then-Meghan Markle from her time in Canada filming the television drama Suits.

In London, Prince Harry’s lawyers were arguing claims of phone hacking.

The contrast could not have been more apparent.

For the working Royal Family, the day began with the Prince and Princess of Wales formally greeting their South Korean guests, accompanying them by car to Whitehall.

The Princess wore a striking red cape and coat by Catherine Walker, and a hat by Jane Taylor. The Queen, coordinated in the twin colours of the South Korean flag, wore a blue coat and dress by Anna Valentine, with a sapphire and diamond brooch once belonging to Queen Mary.

First Lady of South Korea, Kim Keon-hee, President of South Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, King Charles III, Queen Camilla, Prince William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales attend a ceremonial welcome for The President and the First Lady of the Republic of Korea at Horse Guards Parade
The president and first lady witnessed the pomp and ceremony at Horse Guards Parade - Samir Hussein/WireImage

A Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, commanded by Major Edward van der Lande, put on a display of the best of British military, as Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, and Defence Chiefs of Staff watched on from a dais.

Mr Yoon, accompanied by the King, inspected a guard of honour, formed by F Company Scots Guard.

After the ceremonial welcome, came the traditional carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace for a private lunch, where it was said there was a small “flurry”  as a main course of chicken coincided with news of North Korea launching what it claims to be a spy satellite.

Undeterred, the president and his entourage pressed on with a walk around a small exhibition of documents showing the relationship between the UK and South Korea.

On Wednesday, the sound of K-pop will echo outside Buckingham Palace during Changing of the Guard.

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