King Charles’s visit to France postponed as anti-Macron rioters scrawl ‘Death to the King’
Security threats including graffiti reading “Death to the King” convinced Emmanuel Macron to postpone King Charles’s state visit to France, it has emerged, amid nationwide strikes and violent protests.
The macabre message was left by protesters rioting against the French president’s decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Nightly riots were expected to intensify if the King went ahead with his trip to Paris on Sunday as planned.
The three-day visit with Camilla, the Queen Consort, was to be Charles’s first trip abroad since becoming King.
The decision came as:
Protesters scrawled “Charles III do you know the guillotine?” in Paris
Mr Macron said delaying the visit was “common sense”
Fears were raised over “dangerous” royal handshakes
450 were arrested after nationwide demonstrations
Violence peaked after coordinated rallies and strikes across France, which crippled travel and public services and saw rioters set fire to piles of uncollected rubbish. In Bordeaux, protesters set the historic city hall alight. There were more protests on Friday, with the port of Marseille blockaded for several hours and debris littering the streets of Paris.
“I think it would not be responsible and would lack some common sense if we invited His Majesty the King and the Queen Consort for a state visit in the midst of the demonstrations,” Mr Macron said.
“So, out of friendship, respect and esteem for His Majesty the King and Queen Consort, and for the British people, I took the initiative this morning to call and tell him what the situation was.”
Senior politicians including Mr Macron had received threats evoking the historical use of the guillotine to execute Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette – the last rightful king and queen of France.
The words “Death to the King” appeared in graffiti in several locations, including at the Place de la Concorde – the central Paris square where the royal pair were killed in 1793. Another message near the French parliament read: “Charles III do you know the guillotine?”
Elite officers from the SDLP (France’s Protection Service) feared that Charles’s habit of impromptu handshakes and mingling with crowds would present too big a risk, according to a security source.
“There are huge social tensions in France, and there is no doubt that such good manners could have been very dangerous indeed,” said the source.
The King and Queen Consort “greatly look forward to the opportunity to visit France as soon as dates can be found”, Buckingham Palace said.
Mr Macron suggested that a new date for the couple’s visit to France would be arranged in “early summer”.
The delay is a major humiliation for Mr Macron, especially as the royal couple’s visit to Germany next week will go ahead as planned.
Eric Ciotti, leader of the conservative Republicans party in France, said the chaotic security situation was a national embarrassment. “What an image for our country, which is not even able to ensure the security of a head of state,” he said.
"The French have no other solution than to take to the streets massively to try and make Macron understand : he's in his castle, and no one actually gets to him. It's infuriating and contrary to basic democratic standards". #Manifestation
My interview for @France24_en 👇 pic.twitter.com/KYwiASzS3u
— Raquel Garrido (@RaquelGarridoFr) March 24, 2023
Left-wing firebrand MP and former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon portrayed Mr Macron as a monarch, saying he was “delighted to see the meeting of kings at Versailles broken up by popular censorship”.
Raquel Garrido, another left-wing MP, said she hoped Mr Macron would now resign, saying: “Two kings were set to meet at Versailles – one down, one to go.”
Green Party MP Sandrine Rousseau, who had called for the cancellation of the state visit, said: “It’s good that it’s been postponed; it was madness to make this visit in the middle of a social conflict of historic proportions.
“To go and eat at Versailles, to drive down the Champs-Elysees – nothing was going to go well. The protesters were not going to roll out the red carpet for the King.”
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said 123 police personnel and gendarmes had been injured during widespread violence and rioting on Thursday night alone. He said 12,000 members of the security forces had been deployed nationwide, with 5,000 of these stationed in Paris.