King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla will this weekend visit a France in chaos with strikers threatening to disrupt at every turn.
King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla are making their first foreign trip as monarchs to France from 26th to 29th March, and it looks like it will be quite a roller coaster ride.
The King and Queen Consort are stepping into a firestorm of pension reform rebellions ranging from major transportation disruptions to mountains of garbage in the streets and outright hostile interferences.
Possible awkward moments
The trip has no doubt been meticulously planned, but the full official schedule has not been released to the public, a sign that there is unease about the possibility of disruptions.
One of the few things on the agenda that has been released is a trip to Bordeaux, where the royal couple were set to take the tram.
“It’s almost certain that the King won’t be able to take the tramway,” Pascal Mesgueni, a local leader of the CFTC union in Bordeaux, told the Sud Ouest newspaper this week.
City transport operator Keolis added that there “will possibly be disruptions linked to the protests against pension reform”.
Rail workers are also threatening to strike on the day the King plans to go Bordeaux, noting that the environmentally aware monarch will most like choose this form of transport over air travel.
Arc de Triomphe ceremony in Paris
Buckingham Palace has also said that Charles was due to join French President Emmanuel Macron for a remembrance ceremony and wreath laying at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Monday, as well as to speak to the French Senate. So far there hasn’t been word that these plans will be foiled, so organisers will simply have to hold their breath and hope for the best – not ideal on an official state trip.
Macron is drawing fire for not cancelling the visit, being accused of insensitivity for making plans to host a state banquet at Versailles Palace, just outside Paris. The site is symbolic for French people as the home of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and their excesses, which prompted the French Revolution, and for which they were punished by execution.
Macron’s opponents liken him to an authoritarian leader of the 18th century variety, citing his decision to by-pass the legislature and force his controversial pension reform bill through.
“He (Macron) should cancel this visit,” left-wing MP Sandrine Rousseau, a senior member of the Green party, told BFM news channel on Wednesday. “Is it really the priority to welcome Charles III in Versailles? Of course not. Something is happening in French society. The priority should be speaking to society, which is rising up.”
The trip is meant to be a way of renewing ties between the two nations, whose relations have been tension-filled over Brexit. The royals are heading to Germany after their stay in France.
Photo: King Charles III with French President Emmanuel Macron and France’s First Lady Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux Macron during a reception for Heads of State and overseas visitors at Buckingham Palace, 18th September 2022. Source: UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Flickr