The Daily Telegraph

France lined up for King’s first state visit

Monarch could use trip to draw attention to the ecology interests he shares with Emmanuel Macron

- By Gordon Rayner and Victoria Ward

Plans are being finalised for the King to make France the surprise choice for his first state visit after he became close to Emmanuel Macron over environmen­tal issues. There is a growing expectatio­n that he will head to Paris as soon as next month on a tour that could include Germany. The Foreign Office, which has the final say over royal visits, is understood to be keen to use the diplomatic power of the monarchy to build bridges with European neighbours post Brexit.

PLANS are being finalised for the King to make France the surprise choice for his first state visit after he became close to Emmanuel Macron over environmen­tal issues.

Instead of visiting one of the Commonweal­th realms in his first foreign trip as monarch, there is a growing expectatio­n that he will instead head to Paris as soon as next month on a tour that could also include Germany.

The Foreign Office, which has the final say over destinatio­ns for royal visits, is understood to be keen to use the diplomatic power of the monarchy to build bridges with leading European neighbours post Brexit.

There have been no state visits abroad for seven years because of the late Queen’s restricted ability to travel.

Visiting France would also have the added benefit, from the King’s point of view, of drawing attention to a major tree-planting scheme in Africa that is designed to combat climate change and which has both his and the French president’s backing.

Although the King cannot express political views, Mr Macron could arrange for a state visit to include an exhibition about the Great Green Wall project. The scheme aims to plant a 30-mile wide belt of trees across the entire African continent to halt the spread of the Sahara desert and replace forests lost elsewhere.

Last year, the then Prince of Wales shared a platform with Mr Macron at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow to encourage investment in what he described as a “precious opportunit­y” to help save the planet. During a Buckingham Palace reception for world leaders on Sunday night, before the late Queen’s funeral, the King warmly greeted Mr Macron and his wife Brigitte, reflecting what one source described as “a long friendship” between the two men.

Although no plans for the King’s first foreign visit have yet been set in stone, there have been reports that a visit to a near neighbour will precede a longhaul trip to a Commonweal­th realm.

France is a crucial internatio­nal partner, not only because of trade and as a Nato ally, but because the Government is reliant on its help to stem the tide of illegal cross-channel migrants.

The “soft power” of the Royal family has always been exploited as a diplomatic tool, and the Foreign Office wants to capitalise on its popularity in the wake of the late Queen’s funeral, which was watched by billions worldwide.

Mr Macron delivered one of the most memorable tributes to Elizabeth II from any world leader when he said the French people felt “an emptiness” because of her death, adding that: “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen.”

Sources suggested that Germany would also be near the top of the list for a state visit, suggesting the King could head to Berlin after visiting France.

It was one of the last countries visited by the late Queen and Prince Philip, when the couple were hosted by Joachim Gauck, then Germany’s president, in June 2015.

The first Commonweal­th countries to receive a state visit are expected to be Australia and New Zealand in the spring. The King visited Canada in May, but has not been to Australia since 2018.

As well as planning foreign visits, the King is also understood to want to use domestic royal visits to promote diversity and to support people of all faiths.

One of his last acts as Prince of Wales was to edit the British African-caribbean newspaper The Voice last month, and sources close to the King said he wanted to find ways to carry on supporting minorities. Mr Macron confirmed that he had issued an invitation to the King to make a state visit to France, saying: “I had the opportunit­y to invite King Charles to come to France when it is appropriat­e for him.”

 ?? ?? The King greets Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and his wife, Brigitte, during a reception for heads of state and overseas visitors at Buckingham Palace last Sunday night
The King greets Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and his wife, Brigitte, during a reception for heads of state and overseas visitors at Buckingham Palace last Sunday night

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