King Charles's France trip postponed as anti-Macron protests escalate

Strikes force British monarch's first state visit to be delayed

King Charles met Emmanuel Macron in 2020, when he was still Prince of Wales. AP
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A state visit to France by Britain's King Charles III has been postponed because of mass protests against French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Macron requested the delay as he battles domestic unrest over his plan to raise the retirement age.

The Elysee Palace said the decision was made after a call between the king and president.

The move was prompted by new French strikes being announced for Tuesday that threatened to disrupt the visit.

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla were scheduled to be in France from Sunday to Wednesday.

The second leg of their trip, to Germany, will go ahead from March 29-31 as planned.

Mr Macron said the visit to France could take place in early summer "once calm has returned".

"We would be lacking a certain common sense if we proposed to the king and queen consort that they make a state visit in the middle of the demonstrations," he said.

Buckingham Palace said the royal couple "greatly look forward to the opportunity to visit France as soon as dates can be found".

The delay is an embarrassment for Mr Macron, after Britain had chosen France for the first state visit of the king's reign.

The royal trip was meant to symbolise friendship between the UK and France and a turning of the page after the acrimony of Brexit. Mr Macron had been praised in London for a warm tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Preparations for the trip included the unveiling of a waxwork of King Charles on Friday at a museum in Paris.

But the rethink came about after unions vowed to continue their mass demonstrations into next week.

There were concerns that a lavish state dinner at the Palace of Versailles would send the wrong message at a time of worker unrest.

"State visits are a time for celebration and this was not the moment," said Peter Ricketts, a former British ambassador to France.

Mr Macron said he would attend King Charles's coronation on May 6 which may now come before the state visit.

French MPs said Mr Macron would now have time to negotiate with unions, or that if he was willing to postpone the trip he could also delay the bill.

Millions of people have taken to the streets to object to Mr Macron's pension bill and his move to force it through parliament without a vote.

Mr Macron failed to win a majority for his view that French people should work to 64, instead of 62, to cut the costs of the welfare state.

Pension reform strikes continue in France - in pictures

The town hall in Bordeaux, one of the planned stops on King Charles's trip, was set on fire during the latest protests Thursday. A royal tram tour had already been in doubt because of strikes.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 457 people were arrested during Thursday's protests and 441 injuries were reported to police officers.

Mr Macron said on Friday that he would "yield nothing to violence".

In Paris, rubbish has piled up on the streets after strikes by bin collectors and protesters blockaded a terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

King Charles had been due to lay a wreath at Paris's Arc de Triomphe and address the French Senate, while the queen consort was to have opened an art exhibition.

German unions have separately announced strikes on Monday, not coinciding with the royal trip to Berlin and Hamburg, which is expected to proceed.

A spokesman for German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's office told The National there were no changes to the schedule.

The king is due to meet Mr Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz before addressing the German parliament.

Updated: March 24, 2023, 1:36 PM