When it comes to symbolism, British King Charles III’s visit to France is a big deal. Important historical monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysées, the Château de Versailles are all part of the decor. But other important sites were included that send a different message, looking toward the future challenges facing both nations.
France, which beheaded its king and queen after the 1789 revolution, has never been able to resist the craze for the British royal family and has received them with great fanfare over the past 170 years.
The same will be true for King Charles III, whose three-day visit highlights this long historical relationship.
After a parade on the famous avenue in central Paris, the royal couple was welcomed at the Palace of Versailles, the jewel in the French diplomatic crown.
The seat of the monarchy before the Revolution, the Palace of Versailles is now a museum, but it is still used by French presidents to host leaders they wish to impress.
“Every time France wanted to mark its strong relations with England, there was a reception at Versailles,” historian Fabien Oppermann told AFP.
Chain of important visitors
Emperor Napoleon III hosted a ball for 1,200 guests at the royal opera house at Versailles during Queen Victoria’s visit in 1855, the first trip to Paris by a British monarch in 400 years.
Since then, a string of royals and leaders, including Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, have passed through.
For Stéphane Bern, French specialist in royal lineages, the castle has always been a diplomatic strategy. Louis XIV used it to present the art of gastronomy and highlight French talent.
“Versailles is a symbol of the monarchy, but it is also a symbol of French excellence in lifestyle,” Berne said. The Parisian daily diary before the visit.
Ahead of Wednesday’s gala dinner at Versailles, the Élysée and Buckingham Palace have been working on the menu since January, involving three great French chefs.
More than 150 guests were able to taste lobster, Bresse chicken, rose macaroons, all served on porcelain from the Sèvres factory.
However, foie gras was missing from the menu – served to Queen Elizabeth at a lunch in 1957. Charles is openly against the controversial process of force-feeding ducks and has banned it in his household.
Despite this, Charles has always been a fan of France. He made 34 official visits as Prince of Wales and began learning French at a young age, encouraged by his mother. He also frequently spent time in France for personal visits, saying that France was “one of the most beautiful (countries) in the world.”
Yet another symbolic nod, Emmanuel Macron presented the king on Wednesday with an original edition of “Racines du Ciel” (Roots of Heaven) by the French author of Lithuanian origin Romain Gary.
The work, which won the prestigious literary prize of the Académie Goncourt in 1956, takes place in Africa, with the central theme of protecting the planet and particularly elephants.
This donation echoes the “long-standing cooperation of the President of the Republic and King Charles in favor of biodiversity”, underlines the Élysée.
During Cop26 in Glasgow, in November 2021, the two leaders presented the “Great Green Wall” program aimed at combating the effects of climate change and desertification in the Sahel.
This week, Macron also presented the king with a medal in tribute to his efforts as an environmental defender.
Designed by the engraver Joaquin Jimenez, it celebrates Charles’ accession to the throne and Franco-British friendship.
During his visit, Charles will participate in a round table at the Natural History Museum on biodiversity and will plant an oak offered by the Palace of Versailles, in the gardens of the British ambassador’s residence.
The royal couple will spend Friday in the Bordeaux region with a visit to Château Smith Haut Lafitte, an organic vineyard as well as an experimental forest in Floirac.
The details of the visit demonstrate the complicity between Macron and Charles, who both speak each other’s languages.
“They have an extremely warm relationship,” Berne continues, adding that the mutual respect and appreciation is the same between first ladies Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron.
The royal visit comes shortly after moves by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to repair relations between the two neighbors following tensions sparked by the UK’s exit from the EU.
Bertrand Badie, professor emeritus at Sciences-Po, declared The Parisian that “image counts for everything” in this type of visit.
“The constant cordial agreement what we have witnessed from Edward VII to Macron serves as a counterweight to the heaviness of political conflicts between nations. »
(with press wires)