PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron and King Charles III spoke Wednesday in Paris at the start of a long-awaited three-day state visit intended to highlight friendship between France and the United Kingdom.
Charles’ trip to France was postponed in March due to widespread protests against Macron’s proposed pension changes.
For their first stop in the French capital, Charles and Queen Camilla attended a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, where they were welcomed by Macron and his wife Brigitte.
Macron warmly welcomed the new king, often placing his hand on his arm and back. Both were smiling while chatting together.
Downtown Paris was placed under high security for the occasion, with the deployment of thousands of police officers and surveillance drones.
Small crowds gathered behind numerous barriers on the Champs-Élysées for the chance to watch the royal parade.
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The visit shows “the deep historical ties that unite our two countries. It is also an opportunity to highlight the cultural, artistic and gastronomic excellence of France,” declared the French presidency.
At the Arc de Triomphe, the two national anthems were played before a review of French troops and a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark “the shared sacrifices of the past and a lasting legacy of cooperation”, according to the palace of Buckingham.
The jet fighters of the Patrouille de France and the British Red Arrows, the aerobatic teams of the two air forces, flew together over the monument, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke in the Parisian sky.
Charles and Macron, followed by Brigitte and Camilla in another car, then headed towards the presidential palace under the escort of French National Guard horses, both waving to the crowd.
Macron and Charles held a bilateral meeting at the Elysée, as this visit “also symbolizes the relationship of friendship and trust” since they “have worked closely together in the past to protect biodiversity and fight against global warming” , declared the French presidency.
The agenda was also expected to include discussions on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the migration issue, with the southern Italian island of Lampedusa being overwhelmed in recent days by people from Tunisia.
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While the British royal family has long ceded political power to elected leaders, royals remain Britain’s preeminent ambassadors as presidents and prime ministers fight to enjoy the glamor and pageantry who accompany them wherever they go.
This visit comes in a context of recent warming in Franco-British relations after years marked by Brexit negotiations and related disputes.
At a bilateral summit in March, Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed to strengthen military ties and step up efforts to stop migrants crossing the Channel.
“We know that relations between the British and the French have been difficult at times since 2016,” Ed Owens, a historian of the British monarchy, told the Associated Press.
“This decision by the British state to send the King to France is intended to reassure the French people, but also the British people, that this is a relationship of significant importance and that it is based on history, heritage and that there are many other things in our common future that connect us.
A state dinner on Wednesday in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in the presence of more than 150 guests will be one of the highlights of the visit.
On the menu, blue lobster and crab followed by Bresse poultry and a cep gratin prepared respectively by French chefs Anne-Sophie Pic and Yannick Alléno. Both have received three Michelin stars. The cheese course will include French Comté and British Stichelton blue cheese. For dessert, world-renowned pastry chef Pierre Hermé will prepare his rose macaroon biscuit, made with cream with rose petals, raspberries and lychees.
On Thursday, Charles will address French lawmakers in the Senate, giving the king a new venue to show off his language skills after wowing his audience by switching easily from German to English during a speech to the German parliament in March .
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He will then join Macron in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral to witness the ongoing renovation work aimed at reopening the monument by the end of next year.
British Ambassador Menna Rawlings, speaking on French news channel LCI, said Charles was “very sad” after the monument’s spire and roof collapsed in a fire in 2019. It reminded him the 1992 fire at Windsor Castle, she added.
“Of course, it’s an incredible moment for him to have the opportunity, with the Queen, to attend this (renovation) work and also to meet the firefighters who took part in it,” she said. declared.
Charles and Macron will also attend a reception for British and French business leaders on financing projects related to climate and biodiversity.
The king will end his trip on Friday with a stopover in Bordeaux, where a large British community lives. He will meet with rescue workers and communities affected by the region’s 2022 wildfires and tour the Experimental Forest, a project designed to monitor the impact of climate on urban forests.
He will also visit a vineyard pioneering a sustainable approach to winemaking.