Mad about the roi: a brief history of British royals’ visits to France

Despite warnings of pension reform protests during King Charles III's impending three-day visit, France, which beheaded its own king and queen, has a long-running love affair with the British royal family that has endured ups-and-downs in the cross-Channel relationship.

Mad about the roi: a brief history of British royals' visits to France
King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla's visit may be overshadowed by protests against pension reforms. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

From Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II, visiting British monarchs have received a warm welcome in Paris over the past 170 years.

Thawed relations
In August 1855, Queen Victoria made a state visit to Paris, the first by a British monarch in 400 years.

After spending centuries at war Britain and France were fighting together against the Russian Empire in Crimea.

In a landmark moment, Victoria visited Napoleon I’s tomb at Les Invalides in Paris. “I stood on the arm of Napoleon III, before the coffin of his Uncle, our bitterest foe! I, the granddaughter of that King, who hated Napoleon most,” she wrote in her journal.

The grande finale was a sumptuous supper and a ball for 1,200 guests hosted by the emperor at the Palace of Versailles.

READ ALSO ‘No plans’ to change Charles III visit to strike-hit France

Entente Cordiale
Two years after Queen Victoria’s death her son Edward VII visited France in the spring of 1903, amid renewed tensions over the two European powers’ colonial rivalry.

President Emile Loubet welcomed him with great pomp, but he had to work hard to win over an initially hostile French public.

On April 8, 1904, his efforts bore fruit in the form of the Entente Cordiale, a landmark treaty settling Britain and France’s colonial disputes.

Clouds of war

Europe was on the brink of World War I when King George V and Queen Mary visited Paris in April 1914.

As the royal motorcade passed, Parisians lined avenues paved with the colours of the Union flag.

During a state dinner at the Elysee presidential palace, President Raymond Poincare hailed the Franco-British Entente as “one of the soundest guarantees of European equilibrium”.

Long live the King
In July 1938, Europe was again on the threshold of war when King George VI  and Queen Elizabeth swept into Paris to cries of “Long live the king!”

George VI had ascended to the throne after his elder brother, King Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry a twice-divorced American, Wallis Warfield Simpson.

The visit came at a time of growing alarm in Paris and London at Nazi Germany’s war preparations.

For the traditional banquet at the Elysee Palace, Queen Elizabeth wore the “Koh I Noor”, the biggest diamond in the world.

READ ALSO Protest fears as security stepped up for King Charles’ visit to France

Queen of French hearts
Over her seven-decade reign, Queen Elizabeth II made five state visits to France, winning hearts with her command of the language, dry wit and what she called her “great affection for the French”.

Her first official visit as a newly-married 21-year-old princess in 1948 caused a sensation, with crowds lining the street to try to catch a glimpse of her and husband Prince Philip.

Her star power was still in evidence when she made her first state visit to France as queen in 1957. President Rene Coty pulled out all the stops, putting on a banquet at the
Louvre museum and sprucing up the banks of the Seine for Elizabeth’s river cruise.

As the years passed, her visits take on a more overtly diplomatic flavour, marking the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1972, the centenary of the Entente Cordiale in 2004 and the 70th anniversary of the World War II D-Day landings in 2004.

Conveying his sympathy to the British people on her death last year, President Emmanuel Macron said: “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen.”

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German chancellor arrives for talks in S. Korea

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in South Korea on Sunday for talks with President Yoon Suk Yeol after attending the G7 summit in Hiroshima.

German chancellor arrives for talks in S. Korea

Scholz, the first German chancellor to visit Seoul for a bilateral meeting in 30 years, will travel to the Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea ahead of his summit with Yoon.

The two leaders will hold a joint news conference before Scholz flies out late Sunday night.

The summit agenda will range widely from climate change to security policy in the Indo-Pacific region, with the two leaders also expected to discuss the war in Ukraine, German officials said in a briefing last week.

South Korea, the world’s ninth-largest arms exporter, has sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and has also sold tanks and howitzers to Poland.

However, it has a longstanding policy of not providing weapons to active conflict zones.

An official from the German government told reporters the two leaders will discuss Seoul’s plans for providing further assistance to Ukraine.

“We have recently heard from President Yoon — this was also public — that there were certain considerations or a certain easing in this direction,” the official said.

“I do not expect us to press him in this direction, but we will of course listen carefully to what he has to say on this issue.”

Yoon held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima Sunday. That followed a meeting with his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska, last week.

South Korea’s presidential office said Scholz’s visit will be an “opportunity to strengthen economic security cooperation with Germany, a long-standing ally sharing universal values, and to deepen solidarity and coordination to respond to regional and international issues”.

Scholz praised Seoul for providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and participating in sanctions against Russia.

He also said in a written interview with South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that it was up to each nation to determine how they would help Ukraine.

In the same interview, Scholz also condemned North Korea’s weapons tests but said it was important to leave a window open for dialogue.