King's state visit to France postponed amid widespread retirement age protests
The King’s first state visit of his reign has been postponed amid widespread French protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s retirement age reforms.
Charles and Camilla were due to begin their historic four-day trip to France on Sunday but, after a night of violent nationwide demonstrations that led to hundreds of arrests and police officers being injured, the trip was shelved.
The decision was taken after President Macron asked the British Government to postpone the visit, Downing Street said.
Images of the town hall of Bordeaux – a city the royal couple were due to visit – set alight by protesters on Thursday evening, was symbolic of the fury felt by some at the reforms, which have led to nine consecutive days of protest.
French unions had also called for nationwide pension protests next week, which would have coincided with the visit by the King and Queen Consort.
President Macron, who would have hosted the King and his wife, spoke to Charles on the phone this morning after discussions between the UK and French governments.
But the postponement of the trip will be a major embarrassment to the French leader, his administration and Buckingham Palace, who had been planning the state visit for months.
Buckingham Palace confirmed the postponement in a statement: “The King and The Queen Consort’s State Visit to France has been postponed.
“Their Majesties greatly look forward to the opportunity to visit France as soon as dates can be found.”
Charles and Camilla were due to travel from France to Germany for a state visit, from next Wednesday to Friday, it is understood the visit to Berlin will proceed as planned.
Downing Street later confirmed Mr Macron had asked the British Government to postpone the trip.
A Government spokesperson said: “The King and Queen Consort’s state visit to France has been postponed.
“This decision was taken with the consent of all parties, after the President of France asked the British Government to postpone the visit.”
It is understood the trip’s logistics had been under review for some days and measures were being considered to reduce interactions with the public.
The state visit was aimed at strengthening ties between Britain and its continental neighbour using the “soft diplomacy” deployed by members of the royal family.
But Charles and Camilla would have arrived in Paris just as President Macron was bracing himself for further public anger at his decision to push through a Bill raising the retirement age to 64 without a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.