King Charles's soft diplomatic powers are stronger than ever - analysis by Cameron Walker

King Charles

King Charles greets crowds in Bordeaux

Cameron Walker

By Cameron Walker

Published: 22/09/2023

- 18:25

Updated: 22/09/2023

- 19:29

Not many people in the world can attract large, supportive crowds at short notice...

Not many people in the world can attract large, supportive crowds at short notice.

Most politicians can only dream of approval ratings earned by King Charles III - recent polling from Ipsos found 63 percent of Brits are satisfied with the job he is doing as monarch.

Perhaps this is why President Macron of France, who has been domestically unpopular in recent months, appeared to welcome His Majesty’s 'positivity shield' when the pair greeted excited crowds in Paris.

Speaking to French journalists, I get the sense it would be unlikely President Macron would receive such a warm response on his own.

In fact, French crowds were kept hundreds of meters back from the Arc de Triomphe during the King and Queen's official welcome ceremony at the start of the State Visit to France on Wednesday.

The King and the French President honoured their countries' war dead during the rare ceremony, which was last performed at a State Visit thirty years ago.

It was clear the French government wanted no embarrassing distractions from crowds, particularly after the six-month delay caused by riots across the country.

They were sparked by President Macron’s decision to raise the statutory retirement age from 62 to 64.


It is therefore not surprising that security was so strict, both in Paris and Bordeaux.

Thousands of police officers lined the streets and sniffer dogs appeared to be working overtime.

One police dog I observed appeared more interested in its toy than searching for contraband outside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

But their efforts paid off, and the King and Queen appeared pleased to see traditional stone masonry techniques being used to reconstruct the gargoyles destroyed in the devastating 2019 fire.

King Charles, Brigitte Macron, Queen Camilla and Emmanuel Macron

King Charles and Queen Camilla met President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron


The Foreign Office sent Their Majesties on the State Visit to strengthen the bonds between Britain and France.

But, by the King’s own admission during his speech at the State Banquet, “our relations have of course not always been entirely straightforward”.

French lawmakers, however, were full of praise for Britain’s new King.

At the conclusion of King Charles’ speech inside the French Senate chamber on Thursday (a first for a British royal), His Majesty was met with a ninety second standing ovation.

Senator Eric Bocquet, Chair of the French Senate’s France-UK friendship group, told me: “Britain and France must go on having a regular and strong relationship. We are neighbours. Although [the UK is] not in the European Union anymore, you are still part of Europe. Dover is still the same distance from Calais. So nothing has changed.”

Those sentiments could be welcome news for the Foreign Office who designed this trip to strengthen diplomatic relations, and it is understood improved trading partnerships could now be on the cards.

Engagements incorporating The King and Queen’s passions were also woven into the carefully crafted programme.

Her Majesty, accompanied by Madame Macron, marked the launch of a new UK - France literary prize at a reception attended by well-known authors from both countries.

Brigitte Macron and Queen Camilla

Brigitte Macron and Queen Camilla reaffirmed warm relations


Queen Camilla had the opportunity to champion her passion for reading - celebrating the literary connections between the UK and France.

On Friday, the King heard about the devastation caused by wildfires in Bordeaux and visited a British-run organic vineyard in the region which uses solar power and carbon capture technology.

Welcome news for the monarch who has championed environmental causes for more than half a century.

During his speech at the French Senate on Thursday, the King urged Britain and France to combat the “catastrophic destruction of nature”.

King Charles in Notre Dame, Paris

King Charles visits Notre Dame in Paris


Coincidentally, His Majesty’s eco-friendly words came the day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rolled back on policies that would ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in order to ease the financial burden on low-income families.

But His Majesty’s speech would have been agreed and supported by the UK Government.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly MP and Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, Claire Coutinho MP, were accompanying the King in France and were understood to be in “full support” of all environmental elements of the visit.

However, King Charles’ climate urgency messaging seems to be different from what his son, Prince William, had to say in New York earlier this week at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit.

King Charles and Queen Camilla attended the State Banquet with the Macrons


The Prince of Wales cautioned the use of ‘doom and gloom’ narratives to urge populations to take climate change seriously - instead encouraging a far more optimistic approach.

The Prince did suggest, however, that a little ‘doom and gloom’ can help speed things up.

As France warmly welcomed King Charles and Queen Camilla, the war in Eastern Europe still rumbles on.

His Majesty firmly referred to Russia’s “unprovoked aggression” and said “together, we are steadfast in our determination Ukraine will triumph, and that our cherished freedoms will prevail.”

These were perhaps some of the strongest words we have heard Britain’s Head of State say about the country’s stance on the war.

On Friday, Their Majesties also joined a reception on the Flight Deck of the Royal Navy Type 23 Frigate, H.M.S. Iron Duke, to highlight the defence ties between France and the United Kingdom.

Pictures, beamed around the world, show two NATO allies strengthening their relationship - not weakening it.

This was King Charles’ first State Visit to France as monarch, following the example of his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II.

He thanked the French people for their condolences following her death last September, and he fondly referred to her several times during his speeches.

With two successful outgoing State Visits completed, His Majesty’s power of soft diplomacy appears stronger than ever.

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