This Wednesday, France rolls out the red carpet to British King Charles III, at the beginning of a three-day visit that seeks to demonstrate that the foundations of the alliance between both countries remain solid after Brexit.
The original busy agenda in Paris and the city of Bordeaux (southwest) remains largely unchanged, with a state dinner this Wednesday at the Palace of Versailles, southwest of the capital, as the most anticipated moment.
Britain’s King Charles III, and Queen Camilla, meet estate staff as they leave Crathie Parish Church, after a church service, to mark the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, near Balmoral, Scotland, Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. (Andrew Milligan/Pool Photo via AP) | Foto: AP
Shortly before 3:00 p.m. (1:00 p.m. GMT), French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, will welcome Charles III and Queen Camilla during a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where the flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Then, both heads of state will tour the iconic Champs-Elysées avenue aboard a Citröen DS7 convertible, escorted by 136 horses of the Republican Guard, heading to the Elysée Palace, where they will hold a meeting.
In the footsteps of Isabel
The dinner, with blue lobster, Bresse poultry and rose macaron for dessert, will take place in the Hall of Mirrors, where Elizabeth II was already entertained during a lunch in 1957. The late queen returned to Versailles in 1972.
King Charles III wanted to “follow in his mother’s footsteps,” the French presidency explained. The monarch will thus visit the flower market on Thursday, near the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris and which since 2014 has been named after Elizabeth II, whom he liked to go to.
King Charles III with his wife. | Photo: AP
“This is about King Charles, who until just over a year ago was still Prince Charles, putting himself on the international stage as a public leader,” said royal historian Ed Owens.
For the royal expert, the 74-year-old sovereign will address his concerns about the climate and the environment during the trip “on his own terms.” This issue will be the main focus of his second day in Paris on Thursday and his visit to Bordeaux on Friday.
But the trip of the king, who maintains a very good personal relationship with Macron, is also seen as a soft power strategy by the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to restore relations between both countries.
The departure of the United Kingdom caused political tensions on both sides of the English Channel over fishing or migration, among others, and the French president had a particularly complicated relationship with the former British head of government Boris Johnson.
For the historian Fabien Oppermann, “every time there has been a desire to mark a privileged relationship with England, there has been a reception in Versailles,” as in 1957, a year after the Suez Canal crisis.
With this reception, the French president also joins the line of General Charles de Gaulle, who after the Second World War turned this palace into a true diplomatic asset. But, in a context of inflation, this banquet could affect Macron’s image, six months after the crisis opened by his unpopular pension reform.
*With information from AFP.
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