Queen Elizabeth II gave South African President Jacob Zuma a ringing welcome at a state visit Wednesday, greeting him at Horse Guards Parade before a carriage procession to Buckingham Palace.
But the festive mood in Britain was offset by some rancor in South Africa about Zuma's treatment at the hands of the British press.
The queen, dressed in regal purple, was joined by her husband, Prince Philip, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the ceremony. As a sign of respect, Brown skipped his weekly "question time" session in Parliament to welcome Zuma.
The visit included an elaborate formal banquet Wednesday evening at the palace, where the queen praised the political progress made in South Africa before inviting guests to raise a toast to Zuma.
Zuma and his wife are staying at the palace as the queen's guests, and they will also visit with Prince Charles at Clarence House.
Zuma, who became president last year despite a string of controversies, also plans to visit the North London home of the late Oliver Tambo, a leading figure in the long fight against apartheid.
President has three wives, 19 children
The visit marks Zuma's first to Britain since becoming president last year.
Some British newspapers have been critical of Zuma, a polygamist who has been acquitted of rape charges.
Zuma, 67, has had 19 children with his three wives, and he is engaged to a fourth woman. Last month, he confirmed that he fathered a 20th child in 2009 with another woman, and he criticized those who said his actions have undermined South Africa's campaign against AIDS.
The British press treatment, including the characterization of Zuma as a "vile buffoon" in a Daily Mail headline, has caused a stir in South Africa.
The Star in Johannesburg quoted some of the more critical comment on its front-page under the headline: "'Buffoon' Zuma hits back."
Business Day, another Johannesburg newspaper, said, "President Jacob Zuma's controversies have followed him to the U.K., with scene-setters on his state visit revisiting his polygamy and his courtroom travails."
A national radio talk show host asked visitors whether they were offended to hear their president had been called a buffoon by a British journalist. The response, called in or sent by cell phone text message, appeared evenly divided.
The South African media, particularly editorial cartoonists, have not spared Zuma. Much of what the British media have focused on this week, though, is considered old news at home.
Zuma issued an apology to the nation on Feb. 7 after being criticized for having an extramarital affair that resulted in a daughter born in October. Three days earlier, he had confirmed a South African newspaper's report of the affair and child.
The African National Congress Youth League claimed the British media's treatment of Zuma was fueled by racism.
"These British racists continue to live in a dreamland and sadly believe that Africans are still their colonial subjects, with no values and principles," the league said in a statement. "They believe that the only acceptable values and principles in the world are British values of whiteness and subjugation of Africans."