Why Empress Masako of Japan put on a face mask during carriage ride on state visit

Queen Camilla with Empress Masako of Japan arriving at Buckingham Palace during the ceremonial welcome
Queen Camilla with Empress Masako of Japan arriving at Buckingham Palace during the ceremonial welcome (Getty)

Empress Masako of Japan was treated to a majestic, horse-drawn carriage ride through central London as part of her and her husband Emperor Naruhito's official welcome to Britain during their state visit.

But as she was driven from Horse Guards Parade and along The Mall to Buckingham Palace, joining Queen Camilla in a Semi-State Landau, Masako was seen sporting a white face mask that she hadn't previously worn during the ceremonial welcoming ceremony just minutes before.

The reason was simply because Masako, 60, has a chronic allergy to horse hair and was therefore wearing the covering as a precautionary measure.

Nevertheless, the empress was in high spirits as she rode alongside Camilla and waved to well-wishers who had lined the streets of London.

Ceremonial welcome

Masako and Naruhito touched down in the UK on Saturday, although their three-day state visit, which is being hosted by King Charles at the request of the government, began on Tuesday morning.

Prince William personally greeted the couple at their London hotel before travelling to Horse Guards Parade together for the ceremonial welcome, where the King and Queen were waiting to greet their guests at The Royal Pavilion.

Queen Camilla and Empress Masako of Japan smile as they travel in a carriage procession along The Mall to Buckingham Palace after the ceremonial welcome
Masako wore a face mask due to her horse hair allergy (Getty)

The formal occasion included all the traditional pomp and pageantry expected of such an occasion.

The Japanese national anthem played, the Guard of Honour gave a Royal Salute, and Emperor Naruhito was invited to inspect the Guard of Honour, formed of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards with the Band of the Welsh Guards, alongside King Charles.

Masako looked lovely in a white outfit, coordinating with her British counterpart Camilla, who wore a white crepe silk summer dress with black piping by Anna Valentine. The Queen paired her frock with a black and white hat by Philip Treacy and accessorized with a diamond flower brooch.

Queen Camilla with Empress Masako of Japan and Prince William at the ceremonial welcome
Queen Camilla and Empress Masako of Japan both looked lovely in white (Getty)

Lunch at Buckingham Palace

After the official welcome, the group rode in a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace, where they sat down in a private lunch hosted by the King, and viewed a special exhibition in the Picture Gallery of items from the Royal Collection relating to Japan.

Later on Tuesday evening, a glittering state banquet will be held at the palace, where the King and the Emperor will give speeches.

Royal carriages carrying King Charles, Queen Camilla, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako travel along The Mall during Japan state visit
The carriage procession saw them travel along The Mall to Buckingham Palace (Getty)

Royal latest

The importance of the state visit

The Japan state visit has been a long time coming. It was originally billed for 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HELLO!'s Royal Editor, Emily Nash, noted: "The royal family are rolling out the red carpet for the Emperor and Empress and their delegation and it's a really important display of soft power. Japan is a key strategic partner for the UK so this kind of welcome and hospitality will really help to boost that relationship.

"Sending the Prince of Wales to escort the Emperor and Empress to the parade ground further shows how important their visit is considered by the UK government."

The UK's upcoming General Election on 4 July has also meant that some aspects of the state visit have been cut while party leaders are busy campaigning, such as the usual Downing Street talks with the Prime Minister, a speech to the Palace of Westminster by the visiting head of state, and meetings with opposition leaders.

A palace spokesman said this week's programme had been "slightly adapted", adding: "As a general principle, it has of course been adapted as a result of the current pre-election period of sensitivity."