Prince William, Kate make first official visit to Paris as royal couple
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, March 17, 2017 6:02AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 17, 2017 3:56PM EDT
Paris, France is getting the royal treatment as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, make their first visit as a couple to the City of Lights.
The two-day visit is significant for the royal couple in more ways than one. It is Prince William’s first official visit to Paris in more than 20 years.
The royal couple arrived in Paris Friday afternoon and travelled to the presidential palace to meet with French President Francois Hollande.
According to French President Hollande, they spoke about many things, including military operations in Syria against the Islamic State.
In a written statement, the British Embassy said that the meeting "continues the longstanding relationship between the Presidents of the French Republic and the royal family.”
“This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union,” said Prince William during a speech at the British Embassy. “The depth of our friendship and the breadth of our co-operation will not change.”
In the evening, the couple will play host to a number of prominent French politicians, athletes and actors at the British Embassy in Paris.
On Saturday, the royals are scheduled to meet with victims and first responders from the 2015 terror attacks in Paris.
The royal couple also plans to attend a rugby match featuring France and Wales.
The visit is happening days before British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50, allowing Britain to begin the process of, essentially, divorcing from the European Union.
While Brexit is not expected to be an official topic of discussion, the French media is characterizing the visit as a charm offensive of sorts, in the hopes the glamorous royal couple will help France swallow the bitter Brexit pill.
Royal commentator Richard Berthelsen told CTV News Channel that the Paris visit is the first of what will be a series of outreach-type tours in the run-up to Brexit.
“We’re going to see senior members of the Royal Family, the Duke and Duchess and the Prince of Wales, visiting European capitals throughout the next few months to kind of reassure governments in the way that they can, but also to raise the profile of Britain,” Berthelsen said.
The Paris visit also comes just months before the 20th anniversary of William’s mother Diana’s death. Diana died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in August, 1997.
Near the tunnel under the Alma bridge, where the crash took place, tourists paid tribute to Diana by leaving flowers and photos.
However, there are no official public commemorations planned while William and Kate are in Paris.
Berthelsen said the fact that William is there so close to the anniversary of his mother’s death is “coincidental.” Berthelsen added that he would be surprised if there were any public mention of Diana’s death during this visit.
“Both William and (Prince) Harry certainly have been speaking about their feelings about the death of their mother in recent times and they’ve also said maybe they should have spoken more about it earlier, but I would be very surprised if that’s the case (here),” Berthelsen said.
“I don’t think they want to further any more of the connection with Paris, they’re more interested in continuing her legacy in the United Kingdom.”