Queen Elizabeth II and France.

This website is a professional one, and all the blog's articles need to be related to France, French history, French culture, French language and other French speaking countries. This is why this article, which is a homage to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, will be about her numerous visits to France, her relationship with France, and her love of France and of the French language.

"Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign spanned two French Republics and she made 13 official visits, including five ‘state’ ones, and is thought to have visited France in total some 30-40 times." wrote the newspaper The Connexion (the British media in France) this morning.

This article will show a few documents about some of her official visits.

Her very first official visit was in May 1948, when she was still Princess Elizabeth. She was received by President Vincent Auriol who gave her the French Légion d'Honneur, which is the highest French order of merit. She never forgot this visit, and even evoked it again during her last State visit to France in 2014. 

This visit was also the first time she went to a foreign country that was not part of the British Empire. 

She was welcomed with huge enthusiasm by the French population -as they would always do for her following visits. This warm welcome had actually begun as soon as she arrived in France, as the train she took from Dunkirk to Paris was full of beautiful flowers offered to her by the SNCF (our National railway company). 

She came for a four days visit to Paris and its surroundings, from the 14th to the 17th May, and had a very busy program. Apart from diners and lunches at the Elysée Palace and elsewhere, she visited the Opéra, Versailles, including the Entente Cordiale rooms, Barbizon, and spent Sunday 16th at the races in Longchamp.

She made a speech in perfect French, as you can hear in this French video:

This shorter video is from the British news.

During her visit to Paris, she also went the flower market on the Ile de la Cité, and loved it. 

I own several issues of old magazines relating three of her five State visits to France: the 1957 visit, the 1972 visit and the 1992 visit. I will not reproduce the whole articles below, but will just show a few pictures.

Her second visit was in April 1957, from the 8th to the 11th, this time as Queen Elizabeth II. She was received by President René Coty. She spent the last day of her official visit in Lille, to pay homage to the town's resistants during the war, and Roubaix, where she wanted to see the textile industry:

Two videos in English about Queen Elizabeth's visit to France.

Here is my issue of the magazine Paris Match, which was published on 20th April 1957, and in which 49 pages are dedicated to her visit to Paris. 

Here is my special issue of the British magazine Picture Post, also published on the 20th April 1957, relating the Queen's visit to Paris. 

The Queen made her third visit in May 1972, a few months before the entrance of Great Britain in the EEC. She did not stay in Paris only, but also visited several places in France, especially in Provence.

« S'il est vrai que nous ne conduisons pas du même côté de la route, il est vrai aussi que nous allons dans la même voie (...). J'envisage le développement des communautés comme la naissance d'une Europe nouvelle, d'une Europe de partenaires dans une entreprise de grande envergure. Je vois là un tournant de son histoire »* said the Queen to President Georges Pompidou.

*If it is true that we are not driving on the same side of the road, it is also true that we are going in the same direction (...). I see the development of communities as the birth of a new Europe, a Europe of partners in a large-scale enterprise. I see there a turning point in its history.

During the year 1992 the Queen made her third official visit to France. She was received in June by President François Mitterrand, and visited four of his major realizations (the two mandates of the President were marked by what we called in French "les Grands Travaux" (the "grand projects") which were a massive architectural program started in 1981 to provide France (Paris but also the provinces) with new cultural and sports infrastructures, to build new monuments, renovate some existing ones (like when the Richelieu aisle of the Louvre museum was returned to its cultural vocation instead of hosting the Ministry of Finances, which then moved to the newly built (1989) huge building in the Bercy district of Paris), and finally complete some projects initiated by previous President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, like the "La Villette" park with the "Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie" (City of Sciences and Industry), the biggest science museum in Europe. 
The four realizations the Queen visited were: the Louvre pyramid, the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, the Grande Arche de la Défense and the Orsay Museum.

There were also talks about European Union during this visit. 
« La tradition anglo-saxonne est un peu à la tradition latine en Europe ce que l'huile est au vinaigre. Il faut les deux pour faire la sauce, sinon la salade est mal assaisonnée »* the Queen said to François Mitterrand.
*The Anglo-Saxon tradition is a little to the Latin tradition in Europe what oil is to vinegar. You need both to make the sauce, otherwise the salad is poorly seasoned.

Jose Goitia/1992 AP  Source

Paris Match published on 18th June 1992.

Her Majesty the Queen came back for her fourth official visit in 2004 to celebrate the centenary of the Entente Cordiale. She was received by President Jacques Chirac. Unfortunately, it was raining on the day she arrived when they drove down the Champs Elysées.

She also visited other places in France, especially Toulouse, a town in the South West of France, with the visit of the Airbus factory and other places too.

Vincent Auriol, the President who received her during her visit to Paris in 1948, was from Toulouse. In Toulouse, people have a southern accent, sometimes quite strong. This is why President Auriol said to the Queen : "quand votre Altesse parle français elle a beaucoup moins d’accent que moi."
*When your Highness speaks French, she has a lot less accent than me.

The Queen also addressed the French senate, as always with her perfect command of the French language:

Her last official visit to France was in 2014, for the 70th anniversary of D Day. She was received by François Hollande.

Eric Feferberg/ERIC FEFERBERG Source

The Queen loved the flower market in Paris so much that she went back during this 2014 visit. At this occasion, Paris decided to rename the market after her. It is now called the "Marché aux fleurs Reine Elizabeth II".

She inaugurated the new sign herself.

In total, HM Queen Elizabeth II met in France, or invited in England, ten French Presidents.

Visit of Charles de Gaulle in London. 5th April 1960. ©AFP  Source

You can see the full ceremony (3 hours) of the 2014 commemorations of D Day in Sword Beach in this video in English:

As you know, France is the country of gastronomy. The tradition is to receive guests as best as we can. Everything must be perfect. The long 2014 video below shows you a documentary about the very strict protocole at the Elysée Palace, especially when receiving guests of the highest importance.

The Queen was, of course, also present for the other anniversaries of the invasion of Normandy.  

This short video shows the 50th anniversary in Arromanches:

I have found a few photographs of 60th anniversary On this photograph, she watches the parade of D Day veterans. On this one, the Queen meets a group of Canadian veterans. 

I did not find any videos on Internet, but as I had recorded the whole ceremony on a VHS tape in 2004, and the reader is miraculously still working, I filmed, with my mobile phone, a few short excerpts of this extremely moving ceremony, which you will find at the end of this article. (1)

The first one is the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen. The second one is the parade of the old veterans. The last one does not show the Queen, but it shows the end of the ceremony with a very beautiful interpretation of the European anthem. It is said that HM Queen Elizabeth II was very attached to the idea of European Union.

I am convinced France and the French people will never forget Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, whom we have always loved very much. 

May she rest in Peace. 

(1) You will notice the presence in this ceremony of V.Poutine, the Russian leader, who was not internationally blacklisted in those days.

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