They arrived around 20 p.m. on the majestic site of the Palace of Versailles (Yvelines). Emmanuel Macron and Charles III both dressed in a black suit with bow tie, Queen Camilla in a blue dress, without tiara, from Dior, and Brigitte Macron also in a blue dress, but from the house Vuitton. A few minutes break in front of photographers in the majestic courtyard of the Sun King's Palace before rushing inside the Sun King's Palace for a sumptuous state dinner.
The choice of Versailles is a nod to the king's mother, Queen Elizabeth II, welcomed in this sumptuous setting in 1957 and 1962. But this dinner is also the highlight of this first day - out of three in total - of official visit of the new British sovereign, already marked by a ceremony under the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Élysées and a mini-crowd bath. The objective is clear: to carry a message of Franco-British "friendship". On the menu: blue lobster, Bresse poultry and macaroon à la rose, prepared by starred chefs and served in Sèvres porcelain.
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Among the guests in Versailles, all the Franco-British elite: the charismatic leader of the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, the actor Hugh Grant, the host Stéphane Bern, the actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Charlotte Gainsbourg or the boss of the luxury group LVMH Bernard Arnault (owner of Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui en France), who will meet the king one-on-one this Thursday at the British embassy.
A few minutes before the agapes, Emmanuel Macron was the first to take the floor to toast this visit that he sees "as a sign of friendship and trust that we measure at its true value". This three-day visit in France, the first since the coronation of the monarch, "is a sign of friendship and trust", perceived "as a tribute to our past, and as a guarantee of the future", said the French president at the opening of the meal.
VIDEO. Rain of stars in Versailles for the visit of King Charles III
In the aftermath, Charles III addressed the assembly for his traditional toast, juggling between French, which he speaks fluently, and English. "It is up to all of us to reinvigorate our friendship so that it is up to the challenges of this twenty-first century," he told Emmanuel Macron, calling for a "renewal" of the Entente Cordiale, or Franco-British concord, whose 120th anniversary will be celebrated next April.
As often, the sovereign insisted on the challenges of climate change, "this scourge", but also on "the defense of Ukraine". The French head of state, for his part, did not fail to mention Brexit, assuring that "despite this exit from the European Union, "we will continue to write together a part of the future of our continent, to meet the challenges and serve the causes we have in common". The two heads of state have not forgotten, either, to use humor by evoking sometimes sport, sometimes historical anecdotes.
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A message that has come to extend the appeasement glimpsed in recent months in Franco-British relations after several stormy years when Boris Johnson resided in Downing Street, on Brexit, fishing or migrants. In the wake of a summit in March where the French president and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had allowed a "reconnection" between the two capitals.
At the table, Emmanuel Macron sat between Charles and Camilla - Brigitte Macron sitting to the right of the king -, presiding over a table of prestigious guests, from the mythical singer of the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger to the actor Hugh Grant.
Up to 12,000 police and gendarmes mobilized
A few hours earlier the King and the President of the Republic walked down the Champs-Élysées in a very relaxed atmosphere, like the few pats addressed by Mr. Macron on the back of Charles III. Queen Camilla and Brigitte Macron surprised each other by addressing each other with an unceremonial kiss twice: on arrival at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe before a ceremony to revive the flame of the Unknown Soldier, then in the courtyard of the Palace of Versailles.
The king, who intends to establish his image internationally a year after his accession to the throne, will begin Thursday the most political part of his visit with a speech at the rostrum of the Senate, a first for a British sovereign. He will also highlight a subject that is close to his heart, the environment, during a round table on global warming that he will close with President Macron at the National Museum of Natural History and then Friday in Bordeaux, in a region hard hit by fires in 2022 and which has many Britons.
Some 8,000 police and gendarmes were mobilized on Wednesday and up to 12,000 on Friday, where the king's visit will also coincide with that of Pope Francis in Marseille.