PARIS, France – King Charles arrived in France on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, during which he and President Emmanuel Macron will hope to build on symbolism and personal bonds to turn the page on years of rocky relations between the two nations.
Here’s the latest:
* Guests have started to arrive at the 17th century Palace of Versailles, where a banquet dinner will be held in honour of Charles’ visit.
* The 17th century architectural masterpiece was built by Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, to project the power and majesty of the French monarchy.
It is now used as a museum and a glamorous backdrop for official receptions
* The Elysee Palace has released the menu for the Versailles banquet, which will include blue lobster and a selection of French and English cheeses, and will be held in the Hall of Mirrors.
* Macron’s office has also revealed some of the guests invited to the state dinner including British actor Hugh Grant; French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg; British rock star Mick Jagger; British writer Ken Follett; British actress Emma Mackey; French luxury group LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault; French Iliad telecoms group founder Xavier Niel; former French football coach Arsene Wenger; French football star Didier Drogba.
* The two countries have released descriptions of the officials gifts that will be exchanged during the visit:
Charles to Macron:
“His Majesty will present to President Macron, Voltaire’s Lettres sur les Anglais, otherwise known as Lettres philosophiques, one of the greatest and most influential works of the European Enlightenment and beyond,” Buckingham Palace said.
In twenty-five short chapters, the Lettres sur les Anglais cover a wide range of themes, and set out the programme for a modern, free and tolerant society.
This is the most complete edition ever undertaken of the work, and includes the English version, the Letters concerning the English nation, that Voltaire published in London in 1733.
The book was based on Voltaire’s experience during his stay in London from 1726 to 1728, when he met many English writers and was presented to George I,” the palace said.
Macron to Charles:
“An original edition of the book ‘Les Racines du Ciel’ by French writer Romain Gary, winner of the 1956 Goncourt Prize in France,” the Elysee Palace said of Macron’s gift.
Having joined the French resistance after Charles de Gaulle’s call for armed resistance on June 18, 1940, Romain Gary joined the Free French Forces in North Africa and then London in early 1943. He embarked on a diplomatic career after the war, during which he was once again posted in the British capital in 1955.
‘Les Racines du Ciel’ takes place in Africa, with its central theme being protection of the planet, and in particular elephants. This gift has echoes of the long-held co-operation between the president and King Charles in favour of biodiversity. The king has in particular taken part in COP21 in Paris in 2015.
During COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, the president and the king chaired a meeting on the Great Green Wall, a vast programme spanning the Sahel band and aiming to fight the effects of climate change on desert areas in Africa.
Romain Gary remains the only writer who won the Goncourt Prize twice, despite rules that say it can only be won by the same person once. He won a second time in 1975 for his work ‘La Vie Devant Soi’, which he published under a pseudonym, Emile Ajar,” the palace said.
* This is what one Parisian had to say about those sceptical about the visit.
“I’ve never seen a king parade on the Champs-Elysees!” 62-year-old employee Marie-Noëlle Ahanso said as they drove by.
“People will talk, people will complain (about the expense). But he’s worthy of being received at Versailles, I don’t see what the problem is. What’s more, he’s a green king, he doesn’t eat foie gras. The French complain all the time, anyway!”
* Charles, Camilla, Macron and his wife Brigitte posed for photographers at the top of the Elysee palace’s steps.
Macron and the king were then due to have a one-on-one chat inside the palace, touching on topics including the war in Ukraine, the coups in the Sahel and Britain’s upcoming artificial intelligence summit, French officials said.
* Charles had meant for his first state visit abroad as king to be to France, but a trip planned for March was cancelled due to tense French protests over pension reforms, much to Macron’s embarrassment.
* Charles and Macron took the time to shake hands and speak with guests after the Arc de Triomphe ceremony, before driving down the Champs-Elysees avenue – with the pair in one car and their wives in another – escorted by two squadrons of the mounted regiment of the garde republicaine.
Briefly standing up through the open roof of the car, Charles and Macron waved at the crowd. They could then be seen chatting in the car. Macron repeatedly touched Charles on the arm and shoulder – something he tends to do with all his guests.
* This is Charles’ 35th official visit to France.
* More mixed reviews from Parisians amid thin crowds along the Champs-Elysees.
Rozalie Zackova, a 28-year-old Czech who works in marketing in Paris: “I like the royal family, because it’s something out of reach, it makes you dream, they have a special status. And also for the gossip!”
Her colleague Siham Bakali, 31, less fascinated by the king, said she mostly wanted to see France’s Patrouille acrobatique and Britain’s Red Arrows, the aerobatics display teams of both nations’ air forces.
Joseph Gavois, 79, retired, said: “I’ve come to see the king of England, because he’s paying us a visit and we should salute him. It’s an honour he’s doing us!
But Gavois complained that with so much security, he was unable to see the royal couple very well when they drove past him.
* Charles and Camilla have arrived at the Arc de Triomphe, where they were greeted by Macron and his wife Brigitte.
Among the guests were former French President Francois Hollande and government ministers.
After listening to the two national anthems, Charles and Macron proceeded to a review of the troops.
They placed a wreath on the tomb of the unknown soldier – symbolizing all French soldiers who have died in battle – and Charles rekindled the eternal flame.
* The plane carrying Charles and Camilla landed at Paris’ Orly airport, where they were greeted by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
A guard of honour, from France’s Garde Républicaine, lined the royal couple’s route from the plane. As they walked by them, Borne, who had awaited the couple on the tarmac, appeared to joke about the hats and the wind after observing Camilla holding on to her hat as she walked down the plane’s stairs. The group responded to her remark with smiles.
* Parisians had mixed feelings about the visit.
Some were unfazed:
“He’s just the son, they are old already, we don’t have a long history,” retiree Mireille Mauve said.
Charles “is just not as nice (as his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth). Voilà,” said Parisian Marie-Helene Aubree.
Others reckoned that the enthusiasm would eventually kick in.
“I think that once the king arrives and once the media reports are out, the French people will be less indifferent,” Parisian Eric Frizzi said. “In addition, he’s quite involved in ecology, which is a trending subject, so people will listen to him.”
* Britain’s union jacks lined roads near Paris’ monuments, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees, ahead of the arrival of Charles and Camilla. There was also a strong police presence.
* The royal couple and Macron issued tweets on social media network X ahead of the visit:
“We are so looking forward to joining you in Paris and Bordeaux, as we embark on our first State Visit as King and Queen to France, a country for which we both have the greatest love and admiration. We will celebrate the special bond between our two countries and all that your wonderful country has to offer. À bientôt France!” Charles and Camilla tweeted in English and French, along with a video of Charles getting on the plane.
“You visited as a Prince, you return as a King. Your Majesty, welcome,” Macron tweeted in English, alongside a video clip of Charles’ past visits to France.
* The King and Queen Camilla will arrive in Paris on 1400 local time (1200 GMT), and will be greeted by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, before heading to a ceremonial welcome at the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.
* The trip will be filled with many personal touches and moments of symbolism as Britain and France seek to rebuild ties tested by the bitter and chaotic years following Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Macron and Charles have in particular shared correspondence and insight on the restoration of the Notre-Dame cathedral, ravaged by fire in 2019.
Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro, Antony Paone, Elizabeth Pineau, Louise Dalmasso and Antonia Cimini; Writing by Michel Rose and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Bernadette Baum