Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 17:36 UK

Queen begins Slovenia state visit

The Queen
The Queen inspects a guard of honour in Slovenia

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have begun a two-day state visit to Slovenia at the invitation of the country's president, Danilo Turk.

It is the first time they have been to the country since its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and entry into the European Union in 2004.

They will visit the home of Slovenia's Lipizzaner horses where the Queen will be presented with a white stallion.

The royals will then travel to Slovakia to meet President Ivan Gasparovic.

The trip to Slovenia has been organised to celebrate the country's achievements during its short history and will include a state banquet and a walkabout in the capital Ljubljana.

The Royal couple were accompanied by foreign secretary David Miliband and his wife Louise on their flight into Joze Pucnik Airport.

Ceremonial reception

The Queen, who wore a turquoise and black dress and hat, was presented with a bunch of cream roses by two primary school children before starting her first engagement.

Well-wishers lined the streets as the Queen's convoy made its way to Brdo Castle, a 16th century residence which was once used by Marshal Tito as his summer residence.

President Turk and his wife Barbara Miklic greeted the Queen and Prince Philip in public before retiring for a private 20-minute long meeting.

Following their discussion, the couples exchanged gifts between the two nations in a show of friendship.

The Queen and children
The Queen meets schoolchildren in Slovenia

The Queen was presented with a unique gold leaf tea set with a decoration inspired by London's Big Ben and the carnation - the Slovenian national flower.

"That's a teapot," said the prince, and added that it looked "very different" to those he was accustomed to.

The Queen told Mr Turk: "Well, I think that is very kind."

The prince was given a book on heraldic insignia and devices which the Queen described as "fascinating".

Mr Turk and his wife were given gifts including a book of Holbein drawings from the Windsor archive and a silver trinket box.

The president was also presented with the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

Animal costumes

After the exchange the Queen was treated to a musical performance by children from the British International School in Ljubljana.

The pupils, dressed in an variety of animal costumes, sang The Lion Sleeps Tonight and a version of William Blake's The Tyger for the Queen.

She smiled as the children, some of whom were just two-and-a-half years old, danced in front of her.

The royal couple were then toasted at a formal reception hosted by the British ambassador.

The Queen is due to be given a tour of the stud farm for the Lipizzaner horses, the breed used by the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Slovenian President Danilo Turk praised the Queen

The Queen will also get to meet the stallion she has been presented with but it will stay behind when she leaves Slovenia.

Earlier Mr Turk said the monarch "was in a different league".

He said: "She has special stature as a moral authority - as a symbol of both great tradition in Europe and also of innovation which is something that Britain is known for.

"It is a combination of these qualities and people appreciate it."

The visit marks the start of a four-day trip to central Europe which also takes in Slovakia.

In the Slovakian capital Bratislava, the couple will attend a ceremonial reception organised by British ambassador Michael Roberts.

Prince Philip will take part in a discussion on climate change organised by the British Council in Slovakia and the Queen is expected to open an ice-hockey match between local team Poprad and UK side Guildford.

The royal couple are also expected to visit the Tatras mountains close to the Polish border.

Their last state visit was to Turkey in July this year to promote relations between the secular Muslim country and the UK.

In pictures: Queen's Turkey visit
14 May 08 |  In Pictures

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