(London) Charles III will begin a three-day state visit to France on Wednesday, six months after having had to postpone his visit in the midst of the movement against pension reform for what was to be his first official visit abroad as king.
Despite this first missed meeting, the program of the 74-year-old British monarch and 76-year-old Queen Camilla has not changed much, between strong symbolic commitments and meetings with actors from French civil society.
Upon their arrival in Paris, the royal couple will be welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte at the Arc de Triomphe, where they will rekindle the flame of the unknown soldier, before walking down the Champs-Élysées, and participating in a dinner of State at the Palace of Versailles.
Charles III will also give a speech to parliamentarians in the Senate, during which he should speak partly in French, as last March when he spoke in German before the Bundestag in Berlin during a trip which was to follow the one initially planned in Paris.
The two heads of state will also highlight subjects that are close to their hearts, such as the environment, the promotion of reading or youth entrepreneurship. A meeting is planned with local associations and sports figures in Saint-Denis, a Parisian suburban town which will be one of the major venues for next year’s Paris Summer Olympics.
Charles and Camilla will then travel to Bordeaux, which was once under the control of the English King Henry II, and where 39,000 Britons now reside. They must visit a vineyard and meet firefighters who took part in the fight against the fires which ravaged the Landes department last year.
On both sides of the Channel, this visit was marked as a celebration of the old ties between the two countries, at a time when their leaders are trying to ease the tensions inherited from Brexit.
The understanding has not been so cordial since the United Kingdom left the European Union, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson having regularly attacked France, whether on fishing quotas or commercial rules applied to sausages.
Boris Johnson’s short-lived successor, Liz Truss, did not cut corners last year by asserting that “the jury is still deliberating” when she was questioned about whether Emmanuel Macron was a friend or an enemy.
But in recent months, relations have improved with the new occupant of Downing Street, Rishi Sunak, who like the French president is a former investment banker, lover of sharp suits and very present on social networks.
If as head of state of a constitutional monarchy, the British king must observe strict reserve, politics is never absent from these state visits and the trip of Charles III is no exception, confirming the gestures recent openness and appeasement of the British government.
The sovereign’s state visits are “an asset for (British) diplomacy (…) above the political issues of the moment”, such as the persistent tensions between London and Paris over illegal migrant crossings to the United Kingdom. , estimates Ed Owens, royal historian.
“There will be a certain informal diplomacy” during these two days, he adds, but for Charles III the objective is above all to show his commitment as “an ecological king outside British borders”.
After a first year as sovereign where he mainly focused on embodying the stability and continuity of the monarchy, rather than initiating radical reforms, this visit is part of “the traditional approach to royal diplomacy » that the French have been able to observe in the past.
Charles III and Emmanuel Macron have already met, notably during the king’s coronation on May 6, and maintain “a warm relationship”, they say in their entourage.
The French president’s tribute to Queen Elizabeth II after her death in September 2022 was very appreciated in the United Kingdom.