Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have arrived in France for the start of their three-day state visit, which also takes in the D-Day anniversary.
The first engagement of today didn’t begin in France though, before boarding the Eurostar at St Pancras International, the Queen unveiled a plaque marking the 20th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel linking Britain with continental Europe. More than 330 million passengers and 65 million vehicles have gone through the tunnel since it opened in 1994 and the high-speed London-Paris rail link has made commuting between the two capitals commonplace.
HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh are travelling on Eurostar today for a State Visit to France pic.twitter.com/HFWnEWwaqG
— Eurostar UK (@EurostarUK) June 5, 2014
The Monarch and her Husband stepped off the regular Eurostar train from London to an enthusiastic welcome from around 300 well wishers at the French capital’s Gare du Nord. Her Majesty and the Duke were greeted by Britain’s ambassador to France Sir Peter Ricketts who said ahead of the visit, “The people of France know that the Queen likes being in France, she speaks French very well and I feel there is a huge affection in France for the Queen and the Royal Family and I think you will feel that during this state visit”.
Among the well wishers who were there to greet Her Majesty was Margaret Kittle, a Canadian whose late Husband fought in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, “Its great she is here, she the only one of the leaders who will be on the beaches tomorrow to have known the war at first hand, I’ve seen the Queen several times before, and her Mother and Father during their pre-war Canada tour, but today is really special,” Kittle commented.
After Her Majesty and the Duke’s arrival, they were due to lay a wreath at France’s national war monument, the Arc de Triomphe, before attending a garden party at which Her Majesty is to bestow honours upon several British and French nationals.
After the commemorative events of Friday, Saturday will see the Queen return to Paris to tour the city’s best known flower market which is being renamed in honour of the Queen. Housed in iron pavilions the market opens seven days a week and even sells birds on a Sunday. The trip to the market was a personal choice of Her Majesty’s, after visiting it during an official visit way back in 1948.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh have scaled back their overseas visits in recent years. Their last foreign trip this past April, was a one day visit to Rome to meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Pope Francis. The Monarch’s last state visit was in May 2011 to the Republic of Ireland, a ground breaking trip which signalled a new era in Anglo-Irish relations.
From Paris, the Queen and Duke will travel to Normandy to for the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings on Friday where they both will meet veterans and take part in an event at the site of the invasion by allied forces on 6th June 1944.
This state visit also promises to be just as special, Queen Elizabeth II is from the wartime generation and so France’s invitation for her attendance at the D-Day commemorations make her the most honoured of all the heads of state who will be at Normandy on Friday.