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Queen's tribute to Singapore ties


The Duchess of Cambridge will join the royal party

The Duchess of Cambridge will join the royal party

The Duchess of Cambridge will join the royal party

The Queen has paid tribute to Singapore's "firm" friendship with the UK as she held a glittering state banquet in honour of the country's president.

Some 170 guests gathered in the grand Buckingham Palace ballroom as she delivered a speech to mark Tony Tan Keng Yam's four day stay.

The Queen was dressed in a cream Angela Kelly gown and wearing Queen Mary's Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, the Queen Victoria Necklace and the red and white Singaporean Order of Temasek.

She was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, other members of the royal family, political leaders and dignitaries.

Prime minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Chancellor George Osborne, the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex were among those who attended the white tie banquet.

The Queen, in a speech at the start of the evening, told Dr Tan: "Looking back at half a century of co-operation and ahead to new chapters in our story, it is clear that our countries remain firm friends.

"I have no doubt that by maintaining long-standing commitments to openness, fairness and enterprise, this friendship will not only be sustained but will flourish and thrive."

She highlighted the two countries' economic and military ties.

"Our interests also extend to defence and security. Ships of the Royal Navy have been regular visitors to Singapore and our armed forces have served together on peacekeeping operations around the world," the Queen said.

"Underpinning all this is a shared belief in openness and free trade and a world founded on justice, fairness and international law."

She said the two nations enjoyed a rich shared history dating back to when Sir Stamford Raffles, of the British East India Company, landed on the south east Asian island almost 200 years ago and set up a trading post.

She thanked the president for the warm welcome Singapore gave her "grandson William and his wife" during their Diamond Jubilee trip to Singapore in 2012.

Neither the Duchess of Cambridge nor the Duke of Cambridge attended the banquet.

Kate, accompanied by William, played her first formal role as part of a state visit earlier in the day.

The Duchess, who is just over 12 weeks pregnant with her second child, carried out her first engagement for more than two months as she and William greeted Dr Tan and his wife Mary at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London, before escorting them to Horse Guards Parade for the ceremonial welcome.

Kate, who has been suffering from severe morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum and been forced to cancel a number of engagements, told Mrs Tan: "I've been looking forward to getting out of the house, that's for sure."

The Duchess stood throughout the 20-minute ceremony on a pavilion on Horse Guards in blustery conditions, before joining William in the carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace.

Carriage rides in state coaches are known to be somewhat bumpy, but Kate seemed to cope well, listening to William as he chatted away while they accompanied Grace Fu, Singapore's second minister for foreign affairs, in the horse-drawn Scottish State Coach.

But the Duchess did not stay for a private lunch at the Palace, a possible indication that she is still not back to full health.

The event was the first time Kate had been seen at an official public engagement since it was announced in September that she was expecting a sibling for Prince George.

The state visit, the first by a Singaporean president, comes ahead of the country's golden jubilee in 2015 - the 50th anniversary of its independence.

President Tan invited the Queen, or one her representatives, to Singapore next year to mark the country's 50th anniversary of independence, telling her: "The people of Singapore have genuine affection for Your Majesty."

Dr Tan appeared to struggle a little during his speech as he tried to suppress a slight cough but he managed to read his tribute in full.

He added: "The visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2012 further endeared the royal family to a younger generation of Singaporeans.

"I sincerely hope that contacts between our two countries will continue to grow and flourish."

In his speech, the president, 74, said of Sir Stamford Raffles: "Raffles would be pleased to know that his modest venture has developed into the second largest port in the world.

"Much has changed over the past 195 years, but the friendship between our two countries has not only endured, but flourished. We are now bound by much more than a shared history and a common language and legal system.

"Strong people-to-people ties underpin our economic, cultural and educational links. Many generations of British people have contributed to Singapore's development, and their legacies are preserved in Singapore's cityscape."

In the ballroom, guests sat at the horseshoe shaped banquet table underneath the state room's six grand chandeliers. The elaborate floral displays featured autumnal reds, oranges and yellows and in tribute to Singapore - its national flower - the orchid.

Other guests included violinist Liz Chi Yen Liew, a Londoner whose family are Singaporean and Malaysian, who has worked with artists as diverse as Moby, Asian Dub Foundation and Nelly Furtardo, and British inventor Sir James Dyson, who has a factory in Singapore.

The arts world was also represented by Singapore theatre director Ivan Heng, the founding artistic director of the Wild Rice theatre company.

Dr Tan will spend the rest of trip conducting a busy round of meetings and visits. He will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister David Cameron tomorrow.

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