Tuesday night marked an exciting royal milestone for the Duchess of Cambridge as she attended her first ever state banquet in all her splendour – complete with a glittering tiara. Kate was making her much-anticipated debut at the Buckingham Palace event that was held in honour of the Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping, but the banquet also served as Kate's first big glamorous night out following the end of her maternity leave.
The Duchess, who was accompanying her husband Prince William, turned to her favourite designer Jenny Packham to dress her for the formal occasion. She paid tribute to her guests' home country with the colour of her bespoke gown - red is not only the colour of China's flag but an important colour in their culture, symbolising good fortune and joy. It is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holidays and family gatherings.
The Duhess of Cambridge arrives at Buckingham Palace in a bespoke Jenny Packham gown and the Lotus Flower tiara
The highlight of her regal look, however, was Kate's tiara. The 33-year-old once again wore the Papyrus/Lotus Flower tiara which she donned at the annual diplomatic reception in 2013. She has only been pictured wearing a tiara twice in public before – the other occasion being her 2011 wedding when she wore the Cartier Halo tiara.
Royal watchers were paying close attention to Kate’s dress to see if the elegant brunette was wearing the Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II, a sign of the monarch's personal esteem. However there was no sign of the decoration – a portrait of William's grandmother on a yellow ribbon – so it seems reports that Kate was given the honour when the couple visited her at Balmoral in September were wide of the mark.
The night was held in honour of Mr Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, who are on a four-day state visit to the UK. Joining the guests of honour at dinner were, naturally, the Queen and Prince Philip and other senior members of the royal family including Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Princess Anne.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who enjoyed afternoon tea at Clarence House with the president and his wife earlier that day, did not attend.
As the second most senior royal lady in attendance, Kate was given given pride of place behind the Queen, seated next to President Xi.
The monarch, resplendant in a white tulle banquet dress embroidered with white and silver beads and diamanté sequins by Angela Kelly, made a speech welcoming the guests of honour.
She told them: "Prince Philip and I recall with great fondness our visit to China almost 30 years ago, where we were privileged to experience your country’s rich history and culture, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors: all unforgettable memories of China’s ancient civilisation."
Her Majesty finished her speech by calling for invitees to raise their glasses. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to rise and drink a toast to the President and Madame Peng and to the people of China," she said.
On Tuesday morning China's leader was given a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade by the sovereign and Prince Philip. The president was greeted with the usual pomp and splendour, and travelled with the Queen to Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach for lunch.
Mr Xi Jinping's visit has been hailed by officials from both countries as the start of a "golden era" of relations.
During the tour, the President will attend a meeting with Mr Cameron at Downing Street on Wednesday, and he has also been invited to a dinner at the prime minister's country retreat Chequers in Buckinghamshire the following night.
On Tuesday Mr Xi Jinping also addressed MPs and Lords at the Palace of Westminster.