King Charles III on Thursday said France and the UK should team up on a new pact to battle the climate emergency, as he hailed the “indispensable” cross-Channel partnership in a rapturously received speech at the French Senate.
Charles won a standing ovation from lawmakers after deftly mixing English and French as well as personal and political reflections in his speech, the highlight on day two of his three-day state visit.
The visit, Charles’ second abroad as monarch after a trip to Germany, has so far been seen in British and French media as a success, with occasional calls of “Vive le roi!” (“Long live the King!”) even heard on the streets of Paris and a glittering Palace of Versailles dinner hosted by President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday.
In his speech, Charles recalled his mother Queen Elizabeth II, whom he succeeded upon her death one year ago, describing her legacy for France-UK relations as a “golden thread which will forever shine brightly” and saying the royal family was “moved beyond measure” by tributes to her from France.
“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,” he said.
“Quite simply, the United Kingdom will always be one of France’s closest allies and best friends,” he said, speaking from a lectern adorned with British, French and EU flags. Charles suggested that France and Britain join forces to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergencies with a new version of the Entente Cordiale, the 1904 pact that sealed the friendship between Paris and London.
“I would like to propose it also becomes an ‘Entente pour la Durabilite’ (Partnership for Sustainability) in order to tackle the global climate and biodiversity emergency more effectively,” he said.
He also vowed that London and Paris were “steadfast in our determination Ukraine will triumph” in fighting the Russian invasion.
“Just 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,” said the king, known for campaigning on environmental issues in the past decades.
By coincidence, Charles’ latest call on the environment came a day after Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak watered down green policies aimed at achieving net zero carbon emissions by mid-century.
His speech will also be etched in history as the first British monarch to speak in the main chamber of the Senate: his mother spoke in a conference hall within the Senate in a 2004 speech.
“Applause we can only dream of in our chambers!” said Senate speaker Gerard Larcher after lawmakers rose to their feet in unison after the speech as lower-house speaker Yael Braun-Pivet laughed in agreement.
Charles then rejoined Queen Camilla and French first lady Brigitte Macron — who even briefly played ping-pong together while visiting a sports centre.
Later on the Ile de la Cite on the river Seine, Charles — a keen gardener who once admitted he talked to his plants — toured a flower market named after Queen Elizabeth II on her last state visit in 2014.
Britain’s King Charles III and his wife Queen Camilla pose as they arrive to visit the central Paris Flower Market, named after her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth during her state visit in 2014, in Paris on Thursday. (AFP)