King Charles addressed the packed chamber in French and English during the keynote address
In the first speech ever delivered by a British royal in the French Senate, he said the countries’ mutual admiration for Queen Elizabeth should be a “golden thread” to weave new ties.
His words were met with delight and two standing ovations lasting nearly two minutes each.
King Charles, 74, addressed the packed chamber in French and English during the keynote address of his three-day state visit with Queen Camilla.
He praised French democracy and said its long continuity was reflected in the enduring friendship between the two peoples.
“Quite simply, the United Kingdom will always be one of France’s closest allies and best friends,” he said.
The King recalled how President Emmanuel Macron last year called Queen Elizabeth II the golden thread binding the nations together.
Charles told the Senate: “In the rich and complex tapestry of the relationship between France and the United Kingdom, my mother’s golden thread will forever shine brightly.
“Let it inspire us all to continue to weave the connections between our two countries – with determination, hope and with love.” He insisted that as we stand together against military aggression “so must we strive together to protect the world from our most existential challenge of all – that of global warming, climate change and the catastrophic destruction of nature.”
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Moment of history…King Charles is greeted in the Senate
Amid controversy over Rishi Sunak rowing back on Britain’s effort to reach net zero, royal sources played down any suggestion of a veiled criticism of his Prime Minister.
They stressed that the speech, like Wednesday evening’s at a state banquet in Versailles, would have been vetted by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.
Charles then told the Senate: “Nearly 120 years ago, my great great grandfather King Edward VII committed himself, on behalf of the United Kingdom, to the Entente Cordiale and to the bond between our two countries.
“That bond was sanctified by the immeasurable sacrifices of the last century and burnished by each instance of our shared enterprise.
“A commitment to each other, and to the values we so proudly share; a commitment inspired by the example of the past, and emboldening to grapple with the immense challenges in the world around us.”
“Today it is in our hands, having passed with pride from father to daughter, mother to son, just as it has been handed through the generations of my own family.
“For the time that is granted to me as King, I pledge to do whatever I can to strengthen the indispensable relationship between the United Kingdom and France.
“Today, I invite you to join me in this endeavour. Together, our potential is limitless. Let us, therefore, cherish and nurture our entente cordiale. Let us renew it for future generations so that, I would like to propose, it also becomes an Entente pour la Durabilité – in order to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergency more effectively.
Charles at the podium to make his speech
At a green business forum later both President Macron and Britain’s new Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho praised the King for his long campaigning on climate change.
President Macron hailed his “conviction” and “preaching” on tackling global warming: “I remember at the G7 you preached in front of a lot of leaders, so I want to thank you because you started years ago with this conviction and here we are,”
Ms Coutinho said participants at the forum had agreed investments worth billions of euros to create a greener economy.
She told them Britain and France could be proud of being among the first nations to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But she warned: “We cannot reach net zero alone. Decarbonisation of Britain’s economy will only remove 1% of the world’s carbon gas emissions.”
Like President Macron, she paid tribute to the King’s role in campaigning on climate change.
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She said: “The progress we have made in the UK is in no small part due to the visionary work of Your Majesty to highlight the threat of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Charles, joined by Queen Camilla in the sumptuous Senate building shortly after he finished his speech, was given a warm welcome by the Speaker, Gerard Larcher, and his counterpart in the National Assembly, Yael Braun-Pivet.
They praised on the King and Britain in speeches to the Senate. Mme Braun-Pivet, 52, the first woman Speaker of a French
parliamentary assembly lauded the English Suffragettes.
She said: “If I may, as a woman, the first female president of a French parliamentary assembly, I would like to salute the memory of those women who won their case as early as 1918. I would like to believe it was by observing British women, their commitment, their devotion, in the trials of war and the Blitz, that General de Gaulle signed the ordinance of April 21, 1944 which finally made French women eligible to vote.”
MR Larcher cited the author Victor Hugo, also a Senator, who observed: “England shall always be a sister to France.” The Senate Speaker said the two old imperial nations had a shared desire to help the vulnerable and called for closer links between the Commonwealth and the French-speaking world.
He told the chamber: “Today’s neo-colonialism is committed by predator states, not the colonists of the past.”
He added: “France and the United Kingdom possess the resources to offer another way – one of balanced co-operation, security, and a sustainable development.” But far-left French politicians were critical of the decision to allow the King to address the chamber.