After flames engulfed France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral in 2019, Britain’s future King Charles III wrote to President Emmanuel Macron, describing his heartbreak and offering his help and advice on the restoration.
This week, more than four years on, the monarch will tour France on a royal visit and inspect the site of the inferno that stirred memories of the blaze that swept through his own family’s home of Windsor Castle in 1992.
The trip that starts on Wednesday will be filled with many such personal touches and moments of symbolism as Britain and France seek to rebuild ties tested by the bitter and chaotic years of Brexit.
Charles had meant to make France his first royal visit after his coronation, but the March trip was abruptly cancelled by violent French protests over pension reforms, much to Macron’s embarrassment.
On their second attempt, the 74-year-old king and the 45-year-old president will set out to build on a relationship already bolstered by their communications over Notre-Dame and their shared interest in climate and heritage, royal aides said.
Charles and his wife Queen Camilla are scheduled to visit Paris before heading southwest to the vineyards of Bordeaux.
The king, a fluent French speaker like his mother, is keen to walk in the late Queen Elizabeth’s footsteps and is likely to refer to his mother’s deep affection for France, officials said.
Elizabeth visited France 13 times during her reign, more than any other country in Europe, according to Buckingham Palace. On her first official trip in 1957, she had lunch with President René Coty in the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles.
The former French royal palace will be back in action on Wednesday night during a state banquet in its famed 17th-century gallery, built by the “Sun King” to project the power and majesty of the French monarchy.
The day after that, Charles and Camilla will visit the flower market named after Queen Elizabeth on Paris’ Ile de la Cité.