Brushing off the risk of awkward small talk over the soup course at Windsor Castle today, two of the world’s most controversial monarch’s, Hamad al-Khalifa, the King of Bahrain and Swaziland's King Mswati III, have been included on the guest list for a Sovereign’s lunch being hosted by the Queen later today.
As recently as two weeks ago, a report by Human Rights Watch accused Bahrain's police of continuing to beat and torture detainees, including minors, nearly six months after an independent inquiry prompted the government to pledge reforms.
More than 40 people died in unrest last year in the desert island kingdom and 1,600 were arrested.However, supporters of Hamad al-Khalifa say he is committed to introducing reforms, and is preventing the ushering in of an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Bahrain.
The UK Foreign Office - which invited the guests on behalf of the Queen - said it was having "a full and frank discussion on a range of issues" with Bahrain's government, while Buckingham Palace told the Daily Beast it will not comment on the lunch, which will be followed by an evening banquet, hosted by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. It is not known whether the King of Bahrain will attend the dinner.
The Sovereign Monarchs Lunch being held at Windsor Castle today is the biggest gathering of foreign royals in the UK since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding last year.
Other guests from controversial regimes include Sheikh Nasser Mohamed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait and Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.
Members of the British monarchy attending the lunch include Prince Philip, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of York and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and the Prince Edward.
Not present will be Queen Sofia of Spain, in protest at British sovereignty over Gibraltar.
We’ll bring you photos and commentary throughout the day as the limos arrive in Windsor here on The Royalist.