x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Royals gather for jubilee lunch

Abu Dhabi's crown prince joins regal crowd for celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's diamon jubilee luncheon in London.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) greets Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al Nayan, upon his arrival at Windsor Castle, west of London, on May 18, 2012, for a Sovereign's Jubilee Lunch hosted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. A glittering lunch for the world's sovereigns to be held today to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has been marked by a withdrawal and protests over the guest list. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Dominic Lipinski

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) greets Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al Nayan, upon his arrival at Windsor Castle, west of London, on May 18, 2012, for a Sovereign's Jubilee Lunch hosted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. A glittering lunch for the world's sovereigns to be held today to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has been marked by a withdrawal and protests over the guest list. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Dominic Lipinski *** Local Caption *** 546149-01-08.jpg

LONDON // The most regal club on earth gathered for lunch at Windsor Castle yesterday to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 60 years on the British throne.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was among the exclusive list of 46 foreign royals from 26 nations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia who lunched at the castle.

Last night, they dined at Buckingham Palace in a highlight of the diamond jubilee celebrations.

Other Middle East royals at the gathering included the emirs of both Qatar and Kuwait, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK, and Jordan's king and queen.

More controversially, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa attended the lunch but was not present at the Buckingham Palace dinner hosted by Prince Charles last night.

Amnesty International and the antimonarchy group Republic protested the Bahraini presence, while Denis MacShane, a Labour MP and the former Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister, said many Britons opposed the king's inclusion on the guest list given the repression of civil-rights demonstrations in Bahrain.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that Britain's close relationship with Bahrain "allows us to have a full and frank discussion on a range of issues, including those where we have concerns". He added: "On human rights, we support the reforms already under way in Bahrain and we want to help promote that reform".

One 11th-hour absentee was Queen Sophia of Spain, who was ordered by her government on Thursday not to attend due to the row between the UK and Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

There have also been protests this week outside the Savoy Hotel in London, where another lunch guest, Swaziland's King Mswati III, has been staying. A Swazi exiles' group accuse him of human rights abuses and living a lavish lifestyle while many of his people starve.

But political controversies were forgotten as the queen and Prince Philip welcomed the guests arriving for what must be the world's most exclusive guest list, criss-crossing the globe from King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden in the west, to the Emperor and Empress of Japan in the east.

On a chilly day, the queen and the duke of Edinburgh stood outside the castle's Waterloo Chamber, where a pre-lunch reception was held, to personally greet their guests as they arrived.

The lunch party then settled down to a meal with a distinctly British flavour. To start, there was tartlet of poached egg with English asparagus, followed by a main course of new season Windsor Lamb with braised potatoes, artichokes, peas, carrots, broad beans, cabbage and a tomato and basil salad.

For dessert, there were Kent strawberries and vanilla Charlotte.

dsapsted@thenational.ae