PRESIDENT Hollande has welcomed the Queen on what may be her last state visit to France.
Organised as part of the commemorations for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the three-day visit started with her arrival at Gare du Nord on the Eurostar from London and then the official welcome from President Hollande at the Arc de Triomphe. They walked down the Champs-Elysées with an escort of the Garde Républicaine.
Tonight, after a full day of D-Day commemoration events with heads of state of several countries, Mr Hollande will host a state dinner for the Queen at the Elysée. This may be her last official visit to France as, at 88, she feels less able to travel and is cutting down on her engagements.
The state dinner has already proved controversial as it has been revealed that the Queen has asked for foie gras to be served – despite Prince Charles banning it from his menus, saying the gavage force-feeding is cruel. Elysée chef Guillaume Gomez has chosen Périgord foie gras from supplier Guillaume Espinet at Boulazac.
Mr Hollande started today’s commemorations paying homage to the 20,000 civilian victims at the Mémorial de Caen before heading to Arromanches, Hermanville-sur-Mer, and then to Colleville-sur-Mer to meet US President Barack Obama at the American Cemetery.
However, the timetable was already off-kilter by 10.30 with Mr Hollande running late.
At 11.30 he is due to lead a Franco-British commemoration at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Bayeux with the Queen and Prince Charles. Earlier Prince Charles was at a remembrance service in Bayeux Cathedral.
In the afternoon, after a lunch at the Château de Bénouville, all the heads of state will gather at Ouistreham for the official D-Day Commemoration ceremony on Sword Beach, where British, Canadian and French troops landed on June 6, 1944.
The service is due to start at 14.15 and will, after judicious juggling of timetables by Mr Hollande’s staff, be the only time that Mr Obama will encounter Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Later Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will attend a Canadian remembrance ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Mer while Prince William will attend a veterans' tea party and commemoration ceremony in the town of Arromanches with wife Kate.
To mark the D-Day 70th anniversary in Normandy, The Connexion has produced a 16-page souvenir section in June including exclusive photos and interviews with two of the last surviving members of "Churchill's Special Army"; the SOE secret agents who parachuted into France to set up resistance networks, blow up bridges, and generally cause mayhem across France. There are also exclusive interviews with veterans who joined paratroops, infantrymen, Commandos, sailors, demolitions experts, and airfield builders on June 6 1944.
There is also an exclusive interview with Forces' Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.
The June edition of The Connexion with this D-Day special pull-out section is on sale in newsagents throughout France now. We have printed extra copies due to the exceptional demand but to make sure you get your copy you can buy one at a newsagent near you here or by calling our office - call Nathalie on 06 40 61 71 97 or 0844 256 9881 (4p per minute from UK) - and we can post one to you. The cost is €3.50 (plus p&p for a posted copy).
Photo: Présidence de la République