(Paris) After a first missed meeting six months ago, King Charles III began a three-day state visit to France on Wednesday, marked by solemnity and pomp, to celebrate the relaunch of Franco friendship -British after the turbulence of Brexit.
The royal plane, in the colors of the Union Jack, landed around 2 p.m. (8 a.m. Eastern) at Paris’s Orly airport where Charles III, 74, and Camilla, 76, dressed in pink and wearing a matching hat that looks like a beret, were welcomed by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne.
Charles III and Camilla are now expected by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the Arc de Triomphe at 2:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. Eastern) for a ceremony to rekindle the flame at the Soldier’s grave unknown, followed by a descent of the Champs-Élysées. The Patrouille de France and the Red Arrows, the acrobatic patrol of the Royal Air Force, will make a joint passage through the Parisian sky.
The King and the President will then take the “most famous avenue in the world” aboard a Citroën DS7 convertible escorted by 136 horses from the Republican Guard to reach the Élysée Palace where they will have a face-to-face meeting. -head.
In March, Charles III’s visit to France, which should have been his first visit as king abroad, had to be canceled at the last minute amid violent demonstrations in France against pension reform. He finally went to Berlin.
Six months later, calm has returned and it is time again for the “Entente Cordiale”, or Franco-British concord, the 120th anniversary of which will be celebrated in April.
During a summit in March, Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak turned the page on several years of disagreements over Brexit, fishing and migrants. For this great reunion, France, which beheaded its last king in 1793, pulled out all the stops.
“Welcome your majesty! », Launched Wednesday morning on X (ex-Twitter) Emmanuel Macron. “You came as a prince, you come back as a king,” he adds, in a message accompanied by a video of the crown prince’s previous visits to France.
In the footsteps of Elizabeth II
Another highlight of the visit, the state dinner on Wednesday evening at Versailles, a nod to the king’s mother, Elizabeth II, who was invited to lunch in the same sumptuous setting in 1957 and returned to Versailles in 1972.
The king was sensitive to the idea of “following in the footsteps of his mother”, underlines the Élysée. He will also go on Thursday to the Flower Market in Paris, which Elizabeth II loved and which was renamed after her in 2014.
In Versailles, symbol of the absolute monarchy of the “Sun King” Louis king’s table in Sèvres porcelain.
Mick Jagger and Hugh Grant
Among the guests, the singer of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, the actors Hugh Grant, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Emma Mackey, the writer Ken Follett and the former football coach Arsène Wenger.
By inviting Charles III to Versailles, Emmanuel Macron follows in the footsteps of General de Gaulle, who made the castle a real diplomatic calling card, and sends a strong signal to the United Kingdom.
Whether in 1957, a year after the Suez Canal crisis, in 1972 when the United Kingdom entered the European Economic Community (EEC) or in 2023, “each time we wanted to mark a privileged relationship with England, there was a reception at Versailles,” underlines historian Fabien Oppermann.
The king, who intends to establish his image internationally a year after his accession to the throne, will begin the most political part of his visit on Thursday with a speech from the podium of the French Senate, a first for a British sovereign.
He will also highlight a subject that is close to his heart, the environment, during a round table at the National Museum of Natural History then on Friday in Bordeaux, in a region hit hard by the fires in 2022 and which has many British residents.
President Macron will also offer him an original edition of “Racines du ciel” by Romain Gary, whose central theme is the protection of the planet and elephants in Africa.
For the occasion, 8,000 police officers and gendarmes will be mobilized on Wednesday and up to 12,000 on Friday, when the king’s visit will coincide with that of Pope Francis in Marseille.