After a failed first meeting, the big day: the sovereign of the United Kingdom, Charles III, and Queen Camilla arrived in France on Wednesday September 20. They were welcomed at Orly airport by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. The monarch begins a state visit marked with solemnity and pomp, to celebrate the relaunch of Franco-British friendship after the turbulence of Brexit.

“You came as a prince, you return as a king. Welcome, your majesty! », rejoiced on X (formerly Twitter) the French president, Emmanuel Macron. In March, the royal trip had to be canceled at the last minute, against a backdrop of violent demonstrations in France against pension reform. Charles, who was to make his first official foreign visit as king in Paris, finally went to Berlin. The visit “comes in a context of strengthening ties between the United Kingdom and France” after a first phase of “reconnection”, welcomes the Elysée.

On Wednesday evening, the British monarchs joined the Palace of Versailles to participate in a state dinner. They were welcomed there by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron, before all four entering the castle. In the afternoon, Charles and Camilla led with the Macron couple a ceremony to rekindle the flame at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a descent of the Champs-Elysées. The Patrouille de France and the Red Arrows, the acrobatic patrol of the Royal Air Force, also took part. The king and the president then walked down the avenue to reach the presidential palace.

“Roots of Heaven” and “Letters on the English”

Emmanuel Macron offered the monarch an original edition of Romain Gary’s Racines du ciel, a plea in favor of protecting the planet, to King Charles III who in return gave him Voltaire’s Letters on the English.

Roots of Heaven, which won the Goncourt Prize in 1956, takes place in Africa, with the central theme “the protection of the planet and in particular elephants”, according to the French presidency. The president also presented the British sovereign with a gold medal, struck in the workshops of the Paris Mint and designed by the engraver Joaquin Jimenez, to celebrate his accession to the throne and Franco-British friendship.

The obverse of the medal features King Charles III in his traditional Royal Navy uniform. The reverse shows Highgrove House, the king’s personal residence. Charles III will also plant an oak offered by the Domaine du Château de Versailles, alongside the president, Wednesday afternoon in the gardens of the residence of the ambassador of the United Kingdom.

For his part, the king opted for a complete edition, published by the Voltaire Foundation of the University of Oxford, of the Philosophical Letters or Letters on the English written by Voltaire while he was in exile in the British capital. In these letters, written partly in English and published in 1733-1734, the philosopher describes his admiration for the British parliamentary regime which he opposed to the absolute monarchy then reigning in France. The work, which praises a tolerant and modern society, was first banned in France.

State dinner at Versailles

Another highlight of the visit will follow, the state dinner at Versailles, a nod to the king’s mother, Elizabeth II, who was invited to lunch in the same sumptuous setting in 1957 and returned to Versailles in 1972. Among the personalities from the world of culture, we expect in particular the singer of the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, the actors Hugh Grant, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Emma Mackey, the writers Ken Follett, Kate Elliott and Christopher Hampton, the photographers Bettina Rheims or Yann Arthus- Bertrand.

Among the representatives of the sporting world are the former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, the ex-footballers Didier Drogba and Patrick Viera who played extensively in England, the former tennis player Amélie Mauresmo (winner of Wimbledon in 2008) and even the president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, Tony Estanguet.

Large French companies will be strongly represented with the CEO of the LVMH group, Bernard Arnault (LVMH), the director of Iliad, Xavier Niel (individual shareholder of Le Monde), the director of Chanel, Leena Nair, and the general director d’Engie, Catherine MacGregor. The guest list also includes heads of Franco-British institutions as well as around fifteen politicians, including five members of the government.

Charles III, who intends to establish his image internationally a year after his accession to the throne, will begin the most political part of his visit on Thursday with a speech from the Senate gallery, a first for a British sovereign. He will also highlight a subject that is close to his heart, the environment, during a round table at the National Museum of Natural History then on Friday in Bordeaux, in a region hard hit by fires in 2022 and which has many British. For the occasion, 8,000 police officers and gendarmes will be mobilized in France on Wednesday and up to 12,000 on Friday, where the king’s visit will also coincide with that of Pope Francis in Marseille.