King Charles III heads to France for state visit

Charles III finally makes it across the Channel from Britain to France this week, six months after rioting and strikes forced the last-minute postponement of his first state visit as king.On both sides of the Channel, the visit is being billed as a celebration of centuries-old bonds between the two neighbours, as politicians rebuild bridges after backbiting and bickering over Brexit.Ed Owens, a royal historian and author, called state visits “the trump card of diplomacy… above the party politics of the moment”, such as lingering tensions between London and Paris over migrant crossings from northern France to the UK.

“There will be some informal diplomacy going on,” said Owens, whose new book “After Elizabeth: Can the Monarchy Save Itself?” was published on Friday.

But he told AFP that the wider goal was to present Charles “as the environmentalist king beyond British shores”.

After a first year on the throne underlined by stability and continuity, rather than radical reform, the visit encapsulates a “business as usual approach to royal diplomacy”.

In that, the French public will see a familiar British monarchy on display, he said.

“He has presented himself as a slightly more intimate figure but the monarchy remains very much the monarchy of Elizabeth II,” he added.

Charles and Macron have met before, most recently at the king’s coronation — the official religious ceremony to mark his accession — in May and are said to have a “warm relationship”.

The Anglophile French leader’s tribute to Charles’s mother after her death in September last year was well received in the UK, and at her state funeral he extended an open invitation for the new king to visit France.

The postponement in March saw the king and queen head to Germany instead, visiting Berlin and Hamburg.