Disappointment for King Charles as first overseas visit as monarch is postponed

The Nation  |  Mar 24, 2023

King Charles' first state visit to France as British monarch, postponed on Friday because of widespread social unrest, was supposed to be an occasion celebrating a new chapter of harmony in relations between London and Paris.

Instead, a visit that would have featured a banquet at the old royal palace at Versailles and a visit to the legendary Bordeaux wine-growing region has fallen victim to anti-government protests in France which have seen angry crowds setting buildings ablaze and clashing with police.

As well as an embarrassment to French President Emmanuel Macron, the postponement is a disappointment for Charles, taking the gloss off his first international engagement since succeeding his mother Queen Elizabeth in September.

"The king and queen consort were of course very much looking forward to the visit," a Buckingham Palace source said.

"But when the UK prime minister informed the king of his conversation with the French President, in which the president had recommended postponing, the king of course fully understood and was content to accept the PM’s advice to postpone."

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On the first state visits of his reign, the new monarch and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, were going first to France before heading on to Germany.

The tour was designed to celebrate Britain's ties with the two European powers after its 2016 vote to leave the European Union and the tortuous negotiations that followed badly strained relations.

The French leg was to see Charles laying a wreath with Macron at the Arc de Triomphe and joining him for a state banquet at the Palace of Versailles.

The symbolism of the occasion at Versailles - the once home of the French monarchy and emblematic of its excesses for revolutionaries who ousted and guillotined King Louis XVI - was not lost on France's hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

"The meeting of the kings in Versailles is broken up by popular censure," Melenchon said on Twitter.

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