20 September 2023

King and Queen to attend Versailles banquet on first day of France state visit

20 September 2023

The King and Queen will begin their postponed state visit to France on Wednesday with a ceremonial welcome at the Arc de Triomphe and a state banquet at the Palace of Versailles.

Charles and Camilla are travelling to Paris and Bordeaux for a three-day trip, six months after it had to be rescheduled because of widespread rioting across the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron issued a poignant welcome ahead of Charles’s arrival, writing on social media: “You visited as a Prince, you return as a King. Your Majesty, welcome.”

Mr Macron shared archive footage of some of the King’s 34 previous official trips to the country as the Prince of Wales, with snippets of addresses he delivered in French.

Later in the week the King will become the first British monarch to give a speech from France’s senate chamber, to senators and national assembly members.

Other highlights include the royal couple meeting sports stars as France hosts the Rugby World Cup.

The King and Queen’s planned tour in March was to be their first state visit, but it was postponed at the last minute after violent nationwide demonstrations by those opposed to President Macron’s retirement age reforms.

Bordeaux’s town hall was set on fire by protesters just a few days before the trip was due to begin.

Germany – the second leg of the overseas tour – became the historic first state visit destination for Charles and Camilla instead.

On Wednesday, the King and Queen will join their hosts, Mr Macron and his wife Brigitte, for a ceremony of remembrance and wreath-laying at the Arc de Triomphe in the heart of Paris.

As part of the ceremony, the King will be invited by the president to symbolically light the monument’s eternal flame which burns in memory of those who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Afterwards, the foursome will process down the Champs Elysees by car towards the Elysee Palace, the president’s official residence, where Charles and Mr Macron will sit down for talks.

In the evening, Charles and Camilla will be guests of honour at a grand black tie state banquet hosted by Mr and Mrs Macron in the splendour of the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

Both the King and Mr Macron will address the 160 guests, who will include high-profile figures chosen for their contribution to UK-France relations.

The majority of the royal programme has been retained but a few new elements have been added, including Camilla and Mrs Macron launching a new Franco-British literary prize at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

A senior official from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) described Britain’s ties with France as an “absolutely massive relationship, both government to government and people to people”.

“It’s what we call a ‘full spectrum’ relationship, ranging through defence … trade, migration, and a key part of it is sustainability and our work together on the environment, both with each other and in the world,” the official said.

In Bordeaux, the King and Queen will meet emergency workers and communities affected by the 2022 Bordeaux wildfires, as well as UK and French military personnel to hear more about how the two nations are collaborating on defence, and will also attend a GREAT campaign showcasing British and French businesses.

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