Prince Charles and Camilla received French President Emmanuel Macron at Clarence House today, marking 80 years since Charles de Gaulle’s ‘Appel’ speech.
The Prince and Duchess returned to London from Scotland earlier this week, as lockdown has eased. The royal couple were back to work on Tuesday, thanking NHS staff in Gloucester.
Macron greeted Charles and Camilla with a namaste gesture, which the couple returned. The President inspected a Guard of Honour, formed by Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards in the gardens of Clarence House.
Musical support was given by the Band of the Coldstream Guards in the drizzly London weather, playing both the French and the British national anthem.
De Gaulle’s Appel was broadcast on the BBC, and called for the Free French Forces to fight against the German occupation; it is often considered to be the origin of the French Resistance in World War II.
It was to Carlton Gardens the trio headed – located just a short distance from Clarence House, off the Mall – and for a wreath laying at the de Gaulle statue there.
The same was done at the foot of The Queen Mother and George VI’s statues around the corner. The pair saw Britain through the Second World War and were figures of patriotism during the conflict.
It was in January the pair last met, marking World Holocaust Day after a NATO summit in December. The visit makes Macron the first official overseas visitor since lockdown began.
President Macron also presented London the Légion d’honneur for its role in World War Two, and sheltering the French Government in exile as the Nazis tore through the French landscape. The award is the highest order of merit for military and civil accomplishments in France; it was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte.
A medal and certificate in a frame were placed on an easel to mark the award.
I wanted to express the eternal gratitude of the French Republic to the City of London, the cradle of free France, by bestowing it the Cross of the Legion of Honour. pic.twitter.com/98Di78KBTF
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) June 18, 2020
The Prince of Wales also gave an address, making some remarks in French.
“I can only offer you my profound thanks for your most gracious words, and for so generously bestowing upon London this honour of such distinction,” The Prince of Wales said. “It gives me the utmost pleasure and pride to accept the Légion d’honneur on behalf of this city and this country, and on behalf of all those who struggled for liberty in common cause with France.
“Your presence here today, Mr. President, is a powerful demonstration of the bond between our two countries, and between our people, and of our shared determination that it must endure.”
“Général de Gaulle’s Appel of 1940 came to embody the spirit of the French Resistance,” he added, “But it also mirrored the determination of Londoners, and of people across this land, who refused to abandon the struggle for freedom.
“It was a determination that my grandparents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, themselves shared, refusing to leave London during the Blitz and standing with the people of London through the darkest of days.
“Today, Mr. President, let us recommit ourselves to working together in defence of all that we value, and in pursuit of all to which we jointly aspire. Let us renew the bond between us – as neighbours, allies, partners and friends. And let us approach the future not only with hope, but with the certainty that, as so often before, we do so together.”
You can read the full speech here.
The President later attended meetings with PM Boris Johnson, and received a call from The Queen