The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Normandy this week for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings is special because she stands for so much in the relationship between Britain and France, it is claimed.
According to Sir Peter Ricketts, British Ambassador to France, her enjoyment being in France is evident to all and it is matched by a real affection for the Royal Family in France.
‘The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been coming here since their first visit in 1948, when she was Princess Elizabeth, and just married,’ he said.
He believes that the State Visit will capture the essence of the relationship between the two countries. ‘Part of it will be looking back at the history of shared interests, shared sacrifices, some formal, solemn moments: a commemoration for example of the courage of those who landed on D-Day, when Her Majesty will be leading the British delegation at the 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day,’ he explained.
‘There will be moments of colourful pomp and ceremony. The Queen will be coming down the Champs-Elysées decked out with union jacks and French tricolors with 146 mounted Republican Guards on Thursday afternoon that will be quite a spectacle.
‘There will also be moments for Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to meet people who are engaged in the modern relationship and the future so we will be having a garden party where people from all walks of life, including business, culture, education, and sport, will be here to talk to The Queen about the UK-French relationship,’ he added.
Sir Peter pointed out that The Royal Couple will also be mixing with people in Paris. She will be visiting the flower market on Saturday morning, which will be colourful, which will bring her into contact with young people. Some students from schools around Paris have done a whole series of small videos welcoming The Queen which will be played there, and they will put them on social networking sites.
He also explained why D-Day is so important. ‘What we are remembering 70 years later obviously are the sacrifices made, on all sides, by all the fighting forces, and also the losses of French civilians. Some 15 000 were killed before D-Day and another 20 000 over the course of the liberation of Normandy,’ he said.
‘It’s an opportunity to think about the values that the young fighting men of that period were prepared to fight and to die for. They were helping to secure freedom and democracy on the continent. It was a turning point in the war, the beginning of the so-called second front, and eventually the liberation of France and other parts of Western Europe. The sacrifices they made, the willingness to work together in an enormous alliance for peace and a better life are things that need to be transmitted to the new generation,’ he continued.
He revealed that during the D-Day commemorations this year there will be 650 British veterans, the youngest of whom must be now 90 years old, but also importantly a lot of young people. He thinks it is important to pass on the message about what the events of those times 70 years ago stood for, what they can tell us today about the importance of defending our rights and our freedoms.
The Royal programme will begin with a ceremonial arrival on Thursday 05 June and welcome by President François Hollande at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by meetings at The Elysée Palace. Later that evening there will be a Garden Party celebrating The Queen’s visit hosted by Sir Peter at the British Residence in Paris.
The second day of the visit will start in Normandy, where The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will attend events to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. During the day The Queen will attend a service and meet Commonwealth veterans at Bayeux Cemetery before joining the International Event commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings at Sword Beach. That evening Her Majesty and The Duke of Edinburgh will return to Paris for a State Banquet at The Elysée Palace.
On the final day, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will meet the Mayor of Paris and visit the Marché aux Fleurs which will be named in Her Majesty’s honour.
Other members of the Royal Family will also be in Normandy. On 05 and 06 June, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will meet several World War II veterans in Normandy when they attend commemoration events to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will meet veterans of the Glider Pilot Regiment, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, The Parachute Regiment, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and many others.
On 06 June, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will meet veterans at a tea party in the town of Arromanches before attending the Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings at Gold Beach.