King Charles visits Notre-Dame in state trip aimed at bolstering ties

PARIS (Reuters) – King Charles underscored on Thursday the importance of the relationship between Britain and France and called for a renewed “Entente Cordiale” to tackle climate change, on the second day of a state visit to France.

Both nations hope the visit will help turn the page on years of tensions since Britain’s 2020 exit from the EU.

Here’s the latest:

* Charles and his wife Queen Camilla visited at length Notre-Dame cathedral, which was ravaged by a fire in 2019, listening to detailed explanations on the restoration works.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Charles have shared correspondence and insight on the restoration of the cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century.

“My wife and I were utterly heartbroken to learn of the terrible fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral,” Charles said in a letter at the time. “It is a treasure for all mankind and, as such, to witness its destruction in this most dreadful conflagration is a shattering tragedy, the unbearable pain of which we all share.”

* The royal couple and Macron, with his wife Brigitte, spoke with firefighters who were on the spot the night of the Notre-Dame blaze. “We were afraid it would just crumble,” one firefighter told Charles and Camilla.

* Charles shook hands with curious bystanders – most with their mobile phones in hand to snap a picture – after visiting the central Paris flower market renamed after his mother during the late Queen Elizabeth’s last official visit to France in 2014.

* Camilla tried her hand at weaving at French luxury house Chanel’s 19M workshop, with Brigitte Macron and Chanel CEO Leena Nair watching.

* Charles received a jersey from French soccer team Paris Saint-Germain, bearing his name and the number three, in a nod to his title King Charles III. Club President Nasser Al-Khelaifi presented the jersey to the king, as he continued his visit in Saint-Denis, outside Paris.

* Camilla and Macron’s wife Brigitte played table tennis together at a sports centre outside of Paris – not that successfully.

With Brigitte dressed in red, Camilla in white and the tennis table being blue, this offered a display of the colours of both the French and British flags.

The royal couple and Brigitte Macron chatted with youngsters at the Saint-Denis sports centre.

* King Charles received a standing ovation following his speech at the French senate, the first by a British monarch to representatives of both houses of the French parliament.

* Charles spoke in flawless French, turning to English only for short parts of the speech.

* On foreign policy, he said: “Together we are unwavering in our determination that Ukraine will triumph.”

* On joint responsibility: “Together our potential is limitless. This is why we must cherish and maintain our ‘Entente Cordiale’ for future generations so that it also becomes an ‘entente’ for sustainability to respond more effectively to the global emergency in terms of climate and biodiversity.”

* Charles was referring to the “Entente Cordiale” of the early 20th century that smoothed over diplomatic relations between the European powerhouses.

* About his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth: “When my mother died last year, my family and I were moved, beyond measure, by the tributes paid to her throughout France.”

* French politicians took their phones out to snap pictures of Charles at the start of speech.

* “The United Kingdom will always be one of France’s closest allies and one of its best friends,” Charles said. “My belief in the indispensable relationship between our countries is as firm as it has ever been.”

* The visit has been covered extensively by the media in France, while pictures of the visit appeared on the front page of nearly all Britain’s national newspapers, heralding a new “Entente Cordiale” between the two nations.

* On the first day of his visit, on Wednesday, Charles said in a toast at a state banquet in the palace of Versailles that: “We must reinvigorate our friendship so that it is up to the challenges of the 21st century.”

* In his own toast, Macron said: “Despite Brexit and because our ties are so old, I know that we will continue to write together part of our continent’s history.”

* Charles had meant for his first state visit abroad as king to be to France, but a trip planned for March was cancelled due to tense French protests over pension reforms, much to Macron’s embarrassment.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander, Elizabeth Pineau, Michel Rose, Johnny Cotton, Michael Holden, Blandine Henault; Compiled by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Sharon Singleton)