King of rock ‘n’ roll! Inside story of Charles’ visit to France as he dines with Mick Jagger
The King and Queen’s three-day state visit to France had it all – glitz, glamour and humour.
The crowning event was the state banquet at the magnificent 2,300-room Palace of Versailles, where the couple rubbed shoulders with king of romcom Hugh Grant, Sex Education and Barbie star Emma Mackey and music royalty Sir Mick Jagger, among VIP guests from the worlds of sport, business and the arts.
Queen Camilla, 76, was the picture of elegance in a midnight blue cape dress by Dior and the dazzling jewels known as the George VI Sapphire Victorian Suite that once belonged to Elizabeth II.
The sapphire and diamond necklace, sapphire earrings and bracelet added a special sparkle to the pictures she posed for alongside President Emmanuel Macron, 45, Madame Brigitte Macron, 70, and the King, 74, dapper in a tuxedo.
King Charles, who is famed for his love of healthy, seasonal dishes, had reportedly sent amendments to the proposed menu. A source explained, “The King has banned foie gras from his residences in Britain, so there was no possibility of him eating it in France.
"He doesn’t want asparagus that’s out of season either, because shipping it in is environmentally damaging, but there will be a mushroom gratin, which was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth.”
Guests enjoyed a four-course banquet prepared by some of the finest chefs in France. It included blue lobster and crab cake, corn-flavoured Bresse poultry, 30-month Comté cheese and ispahan from Pierre Hermé.
During the dinner in the Hall of Mirrors, the host and guest of honour took turns in paying tribute to one another and the special relationship between Britain and France.
President Macron described the royal visit as a “tribute to our past… and guarantee of the future,” while the monarch gave a 12-minute speech filled with jokes and anecdotes in English and French touching on the “long and complex” history between the two nations “that has not been entirely straightforward”.
The couple touched down earlier in the day at Orly airport before a ceremonial welcome at Paris’s Arc de Triomphe from President and Madame Macron. At a remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony, the King was invited to symbolically light the eternal flame which burns in memory of those who died in the two world wars.
And as she battled the blustery conditions, the Queen provided a pop of bubblegum pink in her Fiona Clare wool crepe coat dress as she greeted her hosts with a kiss on both cheeks.
Against the backdrop of the Champs-Élysées, the British and French national anthems played as a joint flypast of the Patrouille de France and the Red Arrows roared overhead, decorating the sky with red, white and blue contrails.
Official greetings over, King Charles, who was making his 35th official visit to the country, joined the President for a walk through the streets of the French capital, waving and greeting well-wishers.
Loud chants of “King” echoed from balconies and made for a rapturous welcome to the start of the three-day visit. The couple visited Germany in March and were due to travel to France as part of the same tour, but at Mr Macron’s request they rescheduled the trip because of riots in Paris.
On the second day of their trip, the King made history as the first member of the British Royal Family to address the French parliament in the senate chamber.
In a speech that saw him switching effortlessly between the two languages, he spoke of his mother’s love for the country, describing her as a “golden thread that binds our nations” and expressed a wish that her memory would continue to help weave bonds between the countries “with love”. It was an unqualified triumph followed by a standing ovation that left him standing for a minute and a half.
Meanwhile, Queen Camilla showed her linguistic flair as she indulged her literary passion and launched a new Franco-British literary prize at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France alongside Madame Macron.
After viewing first editions of Les Misérables and Asterix The Gaul, the two enjoyed a quick game of table tennis at a youth sports association.
The King and Queen also visited Saint-Denis, the home of the Rugby World Cup village, toured a Parisian flower market named after Elizabeth II and saw restoration work at the cathedral of Notre-Dame, devastated by fire in 2019.
On the final day of the tour, they travelled south to Bordeaux where the King met emergency workers and communities affected by last year’s wildfires. It was then on to a meeting with UK and French military personnel to hear about collaboration on defence matters, followed by an appearance at the GREAT campaign which showcases British and French businesses.
The tour ended with a visit to an organic vineyard. It was something of a joy for the couple, as not only has the King devised a way to fuel his Aston Martin with the by-products of cheese and wine, but the Queen is a wine enthusiast.
She once let slip, “My father was in the wine business, so I was brought up as a child drinking wine and water, rather like the French.”
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