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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

The King’s visit to France hit the diplomatic spot | UK News

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State visits are all about the show. And this was a coup de theatre from France.

Nothing subtle about a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, or a banquet at Versailles.

And the diplomatic highpoint – speaking in the Senate.

The King speaks to people gathered outside the Hotel de Ville in Bordeaux

Speaking to those involved, the King‘s address – mostly delivered in French – hit the spot.

The set-piece moments matter, they are a diplomatic display of friendship.

By coming to France, Britain sends a signal that the country remains a political priority.

King Charles and Queen Camilla travel by electric tram to a reception at Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux
The King and Queen travel by electric tram in Bordeaux

And even though the French have long-ditched their monarchy, the British royal family remains a cross-channel curiosity.

There was a lot of affection for the late Queen Elizabeth II – who visited many times, including on private holidays, and had historic connections with so many presidents – the reason Emmanuel Macron said: “The Queen loved France and we loved her.”

She is still fondly remembered today.

Queen Camilla plays table tennis as King Charles and  Brigitte Macron look on during visit to a gymnasium,  in Saint-Denis
The Queen plays table tennis as the King and Brigitte Macron look on during visit to Saint-Denis Pic: AP

The visit of course should have happened six months ago. But instead it was cancelled, leaving Germany to host the King’s first overseas state visit.

Even palace officials admitted the German trip was a hard act to follow.

The King in the French Senate
The King in the French Senate

The French ramped up security to ensure nothing went wrong.

But this meant the crowds felt held back in Paris. In Bordeaux though, there was much more mingling.

Nowhere in France has more British expats, and plenty came out.

Read more:
King sits above politics but speech was list of political priorities
Rock stars join King and Queen at banquet
Why visit to France was rescheduled

At the town hall – set on fire during the rioting over pension reforms which forced the French to cancel the King’s original visit – there was no sign of disquiet.

The Bordeaux trip had a few themes, from commerce to defence links.

Engagements were set up to show the cooperation between Britian and France.

But it was at the end of the day when the King looked most relaxed, at a forest project looking at ways to combat the threat of climate change.

“He’s in his happy place here,” a palace official said.

In pictures:
King gifted football shirt – as Queen plays table tennis

If there was one theme beyond renewing Anglo-French relations, it was the climate.

The King can’t campaign anymore, but he’s not staying quiet.

In his speeches and his engagements, there are heavy environmental elements.

There were of course the comedic moments too; the Queen and Mrs Macron playing ping pong, the Fijian rugby team serenading the King.

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But does the King have the pull of the late Queen, so loved and admired in France? Probably not, but there is interest and intrigue.

And that’s enough for both France and the UK who are pleased with how the trip went.

Diplomatically, it was a job well done.

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