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The Republic of South Africa State Visit

Release date: Tuesday 22 November 2022

King Charles III and The Queen Consort with President Cyril Ramaphosa at Buckingham Palace. PA images©

This November, The King is hosting the first State Visit of his reign, as he welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa. His Majesty has invited the President and his wife Dr Tshepo Motsepe to stay at Buckingham Palace during the visit, where they will view a special display of Royal Collection objects relating to South Africa. As part of this historic event, we are looking back at the close links between the two nations and previous South African State Visits.

King George VI stands with Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in the Drakensberg National Park. RCIN 2704838.©

The Royal Family has a close relationship with South Africa, a member of The Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II visited South Africa for the first time in 1947 with her father King George VI. During the tour, the royal family travelled for 10,000 miles, mostly by train, and visited 400 cities. The tour included a visit to the Royal Natal National Park that is part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World heritage Site. However, the very first visit by a Member of the British Royal Family to South Africa was made in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Alfred. He documented his visit with photographs showing the amazing landscapes.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, three State Visits took place from South Africa to the United Kingdom. These spectacular events included State Banquets and official meetings, as well as the exchange of diplomatic gifts.

Close links were forged between the United Kingdom and South Africa during Nelson Mandela’s Presidency. In 1995 he made a State Visit to the United Kingdom – the first by a South African Head of State. During his visit, President Mandela presented The Duke of Edinburgh with a colourful chess set with hand-painted ceramic pieces. The figures are dressed in Zulu and Ndebele traditional costume.

Chess set presented to Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh by President Mandela. RCIN 99512. ©
A Zulu basket made from recycled telephone wire. RCIN 102892.©

He also presented a silk scarf to Queen Elizabeth II during the visit. The scarf is decorated with a scene from Mandela's birthplace, the Drakensberg (Dragon) Mountains. This part of South Africa is famous for its ancient rock art, dinosaur footprints and spectacular scenery.

President Mbeki visited the United Kingdom in 2001, and on this occasion he presented a basket or cover to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The spectacular Zulu basket is made from recycled telephone wire. The artist Ntombifuthi Magwaza was influenced by the beadwork traditions of her grandmother.

More recently, King Charles III has visited the country on several occasions, including a visit to Pretoria and Johannesburg in 2011. The King also attended the funeral of President Nelson Mandela on 15 December 2013.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.