The Queen’s visit to France is likely to have a “big, big impact” on the nation when she arrives in Paris today, Britain’s Ambassador to the country has said.
Sir Peter Ricketts said there was a real “warmth and affection” for Britain’s monarch in the European state, and she in turn likes being in the country and can speak the language.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will embark on a three-day state visit when they arrive in Paris and also attend events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The royal couple will travel to Normandy tomorrow, the site of the invasion of Europe by Allied forces on June 6, 1944, meeting veterans and marking the sacrifices of those who liberated the continent from Nazi Germany.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will also take part in D-Day commemoration events in Normandy as will the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Speaking ahead of the state visit, Sir Peter said: “I personally think this is going to have a big, big impact in France. The sense I get here is real excitement and pride really that the Queen is coming back for this visit.”
He added: “This is a moment full of symbolism, full of history. The Queen has a very special relationship with France.
“As you know, she first came here in 1948 as Princess Elizabeth – just married – and many, many French people of my age and older remember that and feel they’ve known the Queen ever since because she’s come very regularly, five state visits but many other visits as well.
“They know she speaks French very well, that she likes being in France and I feel there is huge affection in France for the Queen and the Royal Family.
“So there is a real warmth and affection and I think you’ll feel that through this state visit.”
The royal couple will be welcomed in the centre of Paris by France’s president Francois Hollande and as they travel along the famous Champs Elysees in a limousine, their way will be lined by 146 mounted members of the Republican Guard.
Later at a Queen’s birthday party event held at the Ambassador’s residence in the French capital, British food and drink will be served to the guests, who will include Second World War veterans from France and the UK.
Other highlights of the visit will see a state banquet staged in the Queen’s honour at Elysee Palace tomorrow evening.
Her final day in France will see the Queen tour the Marche aux Fleurs (Flower Market), which will be renamed in tribute to the monarch Marche aux Fleurs – Reine Elizabeth II, a special honour from the people of Paris.