Charles III becomes first British Monarch to address French Senate

The speech came on The King's first State Visit to France

Following the first day of the state visit to France, The King and Queen carried out a full day in Paris.

Charles and Camilla carried out engagements both separately and together, recognising their own interests and duties, whilst acknowledging the ties between the UK and France.

In the morning, King Charles III became the first British Monarch to address members of the French Senate. It was also 231 years ago that France abolished the Monarchy and declared itself a republic in 1792. His Majesty spoke sections of the speech both in French and English.

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The King noted how he had been ‘inspired and encouraged by my grandmother’s and my late mother’s example’, that France has been an ‘essential part of the fabric’ of his own life for as long as he can remember. Each time Charles has visited the country he has always been ‘struck by the warmth of the welcome’ that he has always received, he commented.

His Majesty also briefly touched on the Russian invasion of Ukraine noting how the two nations ‘stand together against military aggression’ and must also ‘strive together to protect the world from our most existential challenge of all – that of global warming, climate change and the catastrophic destruction of nature’.

Charles noted how the UK will always be one of France’s ‘best friends’ as it ‘is a partnership forged through shared experience, and one which remains utterly vital as, together, we confront the challenges of our world’.

He said that ‘millions of us visit each other’s countries every year – a joy that we are now rediscovering after the disruption wrought by the pandemic. Tens of thousands of British rugby fans are currently following their national team around France, enjoying the fantastic spectacle of the Rugby World Cup – my son and daughter-in-law among them!

‘Even when our national teams are drawn up on opposite ends of the pitch, they do so with mutual admiration and a shared commitment to the rules of the game – on which I will say only “pas de coups bas, et que le meilleurgagne!” (may the best man win).’ 

At the end of his speech, The King received a standing ovation which lasted nearly two minutes.

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Elsewhere, The Queen and the First Lady of France, Brigitte Macron, visited the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where the pair marked the launch of the Prix de L’Entente Littéraire. The Prize recognises Young Adult fiction and will allow British and French citizens to ‘share literary experiences, reinforce cultural ties and celebrate the joys of reading’.

Opening her speech, Her Majesty apologised for her ‘slightly rusty French’ as it was 60 years since she was a student at the Institut Britannique in Paris, where she attended finishing school.

Camilla hoped ‘very much’ that the prize will ‘go a long way to proving that Victor Hugo was unfair to us when he said, “L’Angleterre a deux livres”, “England has two books” – as dearly as we value the Bible and Shakespeare, I promise that we have many more than two, as the esteemed authors gathered here demonstrate…  And, just as in France, our writers every year create new masterpieces which this Prize aims to celebrate’.

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Recognising both her and Mrs Macron’s ‘deep love of literature and a passion to promote literacy’, they have seen ‘first-hand the life-changing power of books to bring us joy, comfort, companionship, laughter and tears, opening our eyes to others’ experiences and reminding us that we are not alone’.

For the day, Camilla was wearing one of the Queen Mother’s brooches, made of rock crystal with a diamond feature at the centre, and surrounded by an oblong diamond frame.

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Other highlights from Charles and Camilla’s second day in Paris included a visit to Notre-Dame cathedral, where Their Majesties, President Macron and the First Lady of France heard detailed explanations on the restoration works following a fire to the cathedral in 2019.

The group spoke to firefighters who were on the scene of the night of the Notre-Dame blaze. One firefighter told the group: ‘We were afraid it would just crumble’.

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In a touching engagement, Their Majesties also visited a Parisian flower market named after the late Queen. Elizabeth II first visited the Marché aux Fleurs in May 1948, whilst pregnant with Charles, and during her last State Visit to France in 2014. The market was renamed ‘The flower market of Queen Elizabeth II’ in honour of her visit.

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It was here the royal couple met Lionel Vivani, who has held his stall for 25 years, and told His Majesty how he had showed the late Queen around the market.

Following his introduction to the couple, Mr Vivani said: ‘It was an honour to meet your King. I have fond memories of meeting the Queen nearly 10 years ago and I’m glad I am still here for this visit.’

Hugot Michel, another stall holder, gifted The King a picture of the late Queen he took during her visit to his shop. On the reverse, Mr Michel penned a note to the King, thanking him for his visit and wishing him ‘health and happiness’.

The final day of Their Majesties’ state visit to France will see the couple travel to Bordeaux.

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