Charles III’s first foreign trip as king was marred by turmoil in France, with strikers refusing to supply red carpets amid protests over pension reform and critics calling for the visit to be canceled altogether.
The king is set to make the trip, which begins on Sunday, on behalf of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, which hopes the royal tour’s glamor will highlight efforts to rebuild Anglo-French relations strained by the kingdom’s decision. European Union.
But anger at French President Emmanuel Macron’s intention to raise the retirement age by two years mars what was supposed to be a show of caviar and friendship. Instead, Charles’ visit is seen as an unnecessary display of hereditary privilege.
“It’s a very bad moment. The French generally welcome a British monarch. Right now, protesters are on high alert for any sign of privilege and wealth,” said Parisian writer Stephen Clarke, author of Elizabeth II, The Laughing Queen.
With rubbish piling up the streets of the French capital, observers say the optics couldn’t be worse – for Charles and his Macron host.
The syndicat of French CGT a annoncé cette semaine que ses membres du Mobilier national, l’institution chargee of fournir des drapeaux, des tapis rouges et du mobilier for les bâtiments publics, n’aideront pas à preparer une réception dominicale for le roi à son arrivée In Paris.
“We ask our management to inform the relevant departments that we will not be providing tapestries, red carpets, or flags,” read the press release from CGT.
The Elysee Palace, the official residence of the French president, said non-striking workers would prepare for the trip.
Des mois de preparation, the voyage of Charles from 26 to 29 March with the reine Camilla comprend a visit to the Musée d’Orsay, a ceremonie from Gerbes dépot at the Arc of Triomphe and a somptueux dîner in the ancienne residence royale, Versailles castle.
Once the dazzling center of royal Europe, majestic Versailles is a powerful symbol of social inequality and excess.
Macron is facing a public backlash for choosing to pass a law raising the retirement age to 64 without a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament. Some opponents accuse the president of not calling Charles, and Charles has faced similar criticism as protests continue this week.
“Unbelievable! We will receive Republican monarch Emmanuel Macron, King Charles III in Versailles … while people are demonstrating in the streets,” Sandrine Rousseau, a deputy of the French Green Party, told French TV channel BFM, she added. The king should cancel his visit.
To minimize the potential for disturbances during the royal dinner, security around Versailles had to be very strict. Protesters clashed with police on the cobblestones there over the previous 2020 pension reform bill.
The disturbances and demands of Charles to stay away would certainly cause concern in London. While on tour in York, England, in November, an angry protester threw eggs at him.
The French have had a love-hate relationship with monarchs ever since they executed King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. The queens have generally fared better since then. Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ mother, was a hugely popular figure in France, the European country she visited before her death last year.
Elizabeth, who is fluent in French, has made five official visits to France in 1957, 1972, 1992, 2004 and 2014, as well as informal and private visits. His son now wears the crown but remains in his shadow.
“The problem with Charles is that he’s not the Queen. She’s very popular here. Charles doesn’t have a great reputation here. He looks a bit spoiled,” said Geraldine Dupres, 62.
French newspapers have recently focused on unconfirmed rumors that the king is traveling with several servants, comparing him to his late mother, who insisted her staff turn off the lights at Buckingham Palace to save electricity.
“This visit was an opportunity for Charles to reinvigorate himself in the eyes of the French,” Clark said. “He could have been like a blank canvas, but he probably wouldn’t be able to have the effect he hoped for.”
Charles is respected in France for his environmental activism. The King and Queen plan to visit areas in the Bordeaux region of France that were devastated by forest fires last year that have been widely blamed on global warming.
The couple’s stay in southwestern France gives them the chance to see the vineyards and sample the region’s famous wines, including a planned stop at Chateau Smith-Haute-Laffitte vineyard and winery in Bordeaux.
Regional officials are gloomy about hosting the British royal family, a stark contrast to the welcome Charles and Camilla might be preparing for in Paris.
“It’s very moving that Charles plans to come to Bordeaux. We have a strong – and historic – relationship with the UK. It’s been an English region for three centuries,” said Cecile Ha of the Bordeaux Wine Council.
Ha said Bordeaux winemakers were “on the same page” as King Charles.
In Paris, they play politics. But, here at Purdue, we love Charles because we share the same strong commitments to sustainability. »
Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.
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