The King’s first state visit of his reign has been postponed amid widespread French protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s retirement age reforms.
Charles and Camilla were due to begin their historic four-day trip to France on Sunday but, after a night of violent nationwide demonstrations that led to hundreds of arrests and police officers being injured, the trip was shelved.
The decision was taken after President Macron asked the British Government to postpone the visit, Downing Street said.
Images of the town hall of Bordeaux – a city the royal couple were due to visit – set alight by protesters on Thursday evening, was symbolic of the fury felt by some at the reforms, which have led to nine consecutive days of protest.
President Macron, who would have hosted the King and his wife, spoke to Charles on the phone this morning after discussions between the UK and French governments.
But the postponement of the trip will be a major embarrassment to the French leader, his administration and Buckingham Palace, who had been planning the state visit for months.
Buckingham Palace confirmed the postponement in a statement: “The King and The Queen Consort’s State Visit to France has been postponed.
Charles and Camilla were due to travel from France to Germany for a state visit, from next Wednesday to Friday, it is understood the visit to Berlin will proceed as planned.
Downing Street later confirmed Mr Macron had asked the British Government to postpone the trip.
A Government spokesperson said: “The King and Queen Consort’s state visit to France has been postponed.
It is understood the trip’s logistics had been under review for some days and measures were being considered to reduce interactions with the public.
The state visit was aimed at strengthening ties between Britain and its continental neighbour using the “soft diplomacy” deployed by members of the royal family.
But Charles and Camilla would have arrived in Paris just as President Macron was bracing himself for further public anger at his decision to push through a Bill raising the retirement age to 64 without a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.
Lord Ricketts, who was the UK’s ambassador to France during the Queen’s final state visit to the country in 2014, told Sky News any disruption by demonstrators to Charles’s state visit would have “cast a real shadow over it”.
“Now it jars with the angry mood in France, of course, that anger is not directed at King and Queen. It’s directed at President Macron and his government, but nonetheless, they could have been caught up in it.
“And if there’d been embarrassing incidents during the visit of, I don’t know, blockades or things going wrong in the programme because of the protesters and the demonstrators – we’ve all seen the pictures of the fires and so on in Paris – that would have cast a real shadow over it.”