LONDON - Britain pulled out all the stops in their arsenal of pomp and pageantry to receive Singapore president Tony Tan last week.
His hosts held impressive banquets under great halls and staged grand displays of ceremony complete with horse guards and guards of honour.
The Straits Times brings you the behind-the-scene details of the first state visit to Britain by a Singaporean president.
The President of Singapore Tony Tan leaves in a carriage with Britain's Queen Elizabeth after attending a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A right royal welcome
Three state coaches were used to bring Dr Tan and his wife, members of the royal family and members of the Singapore delegation from the Horse Guards Parade - where they were given a ceremonial welcome by Queen Elizabeth II - to Buckingham Palace where they were to stay for two nights until Thursday.
The grandest of all, the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, held the Queen and Dr Tan. It was first in the carriage procession, drawn by six white horses. It was first used at the opening of the British Parliament in June 2014 and is the newest state coach in the royal fleet.
The Australian State Coach, next in the procession, carried the Queen's husband Prince Philip, who is the Duke of Edinburgh, and Mrs Mary Tan, Dr Tan's wife.
The Scottish State Coach followed after that, carrying the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu, who is also Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Environment and Water Resources.
Other than the three state coaches, four semi-state landaus were also used. These are carriages that are used in state processions.
Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Minister of State for Defence and National Development, was in one. Members of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin and Arthur Fong were in another with Singapore's High Commissioner Foo Chi Hsia. The British High Commissioner at Singapore Antony Phillipson was in a third.
The entire carriage procession was accompanied by mounted royal horse guards. It proceeded down the road leading to Buckingham Palace, which was decorated with both Singapore and British flags for the state visit.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Singapore's President Tony Tan view a display of Singaporean items from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace in London on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The Queen's personal touch
The Queen went out of her way to make sure that her Singaporean house guests felt welcome.
Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ms Foo Chi Hsia, told Singaporeans in London last Friday night: "I believe one thing that struck all of us, members of the delegation, was the very special warmth and affection with which all of us were received by the Queen, who personally oversaw all aspects of the visit.
"We heard that she personally inspected every one of the guest rooms in Buckingham Palace, not just the presidential suite, but all the way (down) to the staff members'. She personally oversaw all the preparations for the state banquet and walked through the entire banquet before the event itself.
"Every single member of the society that received us and helped us during the visit went beyond the normal niceties of state and official visits, and all these underscored the very special relationship that (Britain and Singapore) share," she said during a reception for more than 200 Singaporeans who live in Britain.
President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam and Queen Elizabeth II share a toast during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace in central London, on day one of the President of Singapore's state visit to Britain on Oct 21, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A banquet filled with honours
The 170 guests at the state banquet hosted by the Queen in honour of President Tan on Tuesday night feasted well.
Filet of sole, stuffed breast of pheasant, salad, iced chocolate bombe - a dessert of ice cream frozen into the shape of a cannonball - and fruits were on le menu, which was written in French as is the custom.
Some of the most eye-catching accessories at the state banquets were honours and medals.
The Queen wore her Order of Temasek red-and-white sash and white star to the state banquet. She received Singapore's second highest national honour when she visited the Republic in 1972.
President Tan wore his Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath to the state banquet. He had been awarded the honorary knighthood - the third highest British honour and among the highest ever awarded to a Singapore leader - during the state visit.
The honour is given to distinguished foreign heads of state and was also accorded to Singapore's second president Benjamin Sheares in 1972.
The President was also awarded a King Charles II medal on Wednesday by the Royal Society, Britain's premier science institution, which is over 300 years old. Measuring 70mm in diameter, the medal is given to foreign heads of state or government who have contributed to advancing science in their country.
It has been awarded only four other times: to Emperor Akihito of Japan in 1998, President Abdul Kalam of India in 2007, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in 2010, and Premier Wen Jiabao of China in 2011.
Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam (right) receives a print of "A Lane in Singapore" as a gift from Lord de Mauley (left) in the Marianne North Gallery during a visit to Kew Gardens in West London on Oct 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Gifts and mementoes
The gifts Dr Tan received over the course of his busy meetings and visits ranged from the stately to the quirky.
1. From the Queen and the Duke
From the Queen, he received copies of Adam Smith's the Wealth of Nations and James Maitland's The Nature Of Public Wealth. These were presented in a leather box. He was also given a pair of photographs in silver frames.
Mrs Tan received a wooden box inlaid with the Queen's royal cypher "EIIR", which stands for Elizabeth II Regina.
2. From President Tan
The President gave the Queen a collection of hand-painted china plates with designs depicting places she had visited during her three state visits to Singapore in 1972, 1989 and 2006. It was accompanied by a book with photographs of the places from the National Archives of Singapore.
The Duke of Edinburgh was given a framed photograph of a family of black-naped terns, a white bird local to Singapore, taken at Loyang Rock by local Singaporean wildlife photographer C. S. Ling in 2009.
3. From Aardman Animations studio
In Bristol's Aardman Animations studio, Dr Tan and Mrs Tan were given figures of the animation studio's beloved sheep character Shaun, whose wool was painted with the British union jack.
4. From Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew
In the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew, they received a copy of a painting done in 1876 of a Singaporean lane with trees by botanic artist Marianne North. She travelled the Singapore and Borneo region in the 1870s painting landscapes and plants.