King Charles arrives in France on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, during which he and President Emmanuel Macron will hope to build on symbolism and personal bonds to turn the page on years of rocky relations between the two nations.
The king and his wife, Queen Camilla, will start their visit with a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, with the aerobatics display teams of both nations’ air forces conducting a flypast.
Amid the highlights of the trip will be a state dinner on Wednesday at the Palace of Versailles, where blue lobster and a selection of French and English cheeses will be on the menu.
More than 150 guests are invited to the banquet, including British actor Hugh Grant, rock star Mick Jagger, former Arsenal football coach Arsene Wenger, French soccer star Didier Drogba, as well as French billionaire Bernard Arnault.
On Thursday, Charles, Camilla, Macron and his wife Brigitte will visit the Notre-Dame cathedral to view restoration works following a massive blaze in 2019 that destroyed its roof.
Charles and Camilla will then head to the southwestern city of Bordeaux on Friday, where excursions will include a visit to an organic vineyard.
The king, a fluent French speaker like his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth, is keen to walk in her footsteps and is likely to refer to Elizabeth’s deep affection for France, officials said, with the trip also being a chance to rebuild ties that have been frayed by Britain’s chaotic exit from the EU in 2020.
“He’s an authentic francophile,” Adelaide de Clermont-Tonnerre, editor-in-chief of French celebrity magazine Point de Vue told Reuters TV. “His mother was an icon, she had become Europe’s grandmother. Charles had a more polarising life.”
Charles had hoped for a state visit to France to have been his first as king, but a March trip was postponed due to tense protests in France over pension reforms, much to Macron’s embarrassment.