QUEEN Elizabeth II was due to arrive in Paris this afternoon for her fifth State visit to France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
It has been widely speculated that this will be the 88-year-old monarch’s final overseas trip. She and the 92-year-old Duke of Edinburgh have been scaling back on their duties, but were determined to be part of these commemorations.
The D-Day anniversary is so important that the royal couple have taken a Eurostar train to be in France for the commemorations.
Amid tight security in Paris, the royal couple were due to attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe shortly after they arrive in Paris today, where they will gather at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
A minor diplomatic crisis was averted when it was discovered that the Citroen C5s normally used to transport State guests in France were too low for the Queen to wear a hat. Instead she will travel in a higher-roofed Renault Vel Satis.
They will travel to Normandy tomorrow, the site of the invasion of Europe by Allied forces on June 6, 1944, where they will meet veterans and remember the sacrifice of those who died to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will also take part in events in Normandy, as will the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
French officials have described Elizabeth as the “super guest of honour”.
The royal couple will attend a State dinner at the Elysee Palace tomorrow evening after the solemn events in Normandy. It has been reported that the Elysee chefs have catered for the Queen’s love of foie gras by putting it on the menu.
On the final day of the State visit, the Queen and Prince Philip will visit a flower market in in Île de la Cité, which is to renamed in her honour.
The Queen's love of France and all things French is well known. She first visited France in 1948, shortly after she married naval officer Philip and four years before she ascended to the throne.
She had served during the war with the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and trained as a driver and mechanic.
She has met nine French heads of State, and speaks the language well.
Britain’s Ambassador to France Sir Peter Ricketts described this fifth State visit as likely to have a “big, big impact”.
Speaking before the trip, he told the Press Association that he sensed "real excitement and pride" over the Queen's visit.
He said: "This is a moment full of symbolism, full of history. The Queen has a very special relationship with France.”
French TV is marking the day with a full schedule of D-Day coverage. Events will be broadcast live by national broadcaster TF1 throughout the day, while other channels will also cover events in Normandy and beyond.