King Charles lights flame at Arc de Triomphe for start of three-day French visit

British royal seeking to help repair the badly damaged Paris-London relationship

Britain’s King Charles lit the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Wednesday before travelling down the Champs-Elysées with French president Emmanuel Macron at the start of a three-day state visit.

At the Arc de Triomphe, the 74-year-old king and 45-year-old president commemorated Britain and France’s common sacrifices and ongoing military cooperation before next year’s 80th anniversary of the D-day landings. It was part of a show of friendship designed to show the positive reset of the UK-French relationship after the near-total collapse in trust during the Boris Johnson years after Brexit.

The centrepiece of the king’s visit was to be Wednesday night’s lavish state banquet at the Palace of Versailles, in the Hall of Mirrors, the famed 17th-century gallery built by the “Sun King” Louis XIV to project the power and majesty of the French monarchy.

Mr Macron’s office, which drew up the guest list, said that those invited to the dinner hosted by the French president included the Rolling Stones singer, Mick Jagger, the British actor Hugh Grant, the French actor and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg and the British-French actor Emma Mackey.


Also present would be the chief executive of the French luxury goods empire LVMH, Bernard Arnault, who is one of the world’s richest people, as well as the businessman and French Iliad telecoms group founder, Xavier Niel, the Elysée added.

Several guests from the world of sport included the former French football coach Arsène Wenger, the French football star Didier Drogba, the footballer Patrick Vieira, and Tony Estanguet, the three-times Olympic canoeing champion who is head of the 2024 Paris Olympics organising committee, as well as the tennis player and former Wimbledon winner Amélie Mauresmo.

Also present would be the French prime minister and several French government ministers.

The king was expected to make a pre-dinner toast referencing his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, who had lunch in the same room at Versailles during her first state visit to France in 1957.

King Charles, who is on his 35th visit to France, and Queen Camilla landed at Orly airport on a British Airways flight and were met on a red carpet by the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne. Their mode of transport was in contrast to Elizabeth II, who had travelled to Paris by Eurostar train in 2004 and 2014.

The king and queen were driven from their airport in their own Bentley, which was transported from the UK. But the king accompanied Mr Macron down the Champs-Elysées in the presidential Citroën DS7 convertible accompanied by 136 horses of the republican guard.

The king’s trip is seen as the “soft power” follow-up to British prime minister Rishi Sunak’s drive to repair the badly damaged Paris-London relationship at a Franco-British summit earlier this year, which addressed issues such as the crisis of people risking their lives to cross the Channel in small boats. - Guardian