Francois Hollande welcomes William and Kate to Paris

Robert Jobson
Royal welcome: William and Kate are greeted by French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace: PA

Prince William and Kate arrived in Paris this afternoon for a whirlwind first official visit to the city.

The couple touched down in the French capital by private jet and were immediately whisked away for their first engagement, a meeting with the French president Francois Holland.

The encounter took place in the honey-stoned Elysee Palace, the official residence of the President of France since 1848.

William seemed rather ill-at ease during the meeting but aides said his slightly stiff demeanour would have been due to the formality of occasion.

After a few seconds the the media was ushered out and the prince, duchess and president enjoyed more than half an hour of bi-lateral talks.

The Royal couple are on an official visit to France (PA)

Before they left the president took them outside into the gardens of the palace for a second photocall, walking them down a sun-bathed terrace in front of the waiting cameras, stopping to chat occasionally as he pointed items of interest out.

They group then walked inside, William putting a chivalrous hand on the small of his wife's back as he allowed her to step in before him.

An aide said of the meeting:'They are very grateful that the President has invited them to the the Elysee Palace for a meeting at the very start of their trip, which gives you an indication of the importance and status of the visit.'

The president then walked them out of the entrance to the palace and waved goodbye from the steps as they entered their car to be driven a few yards up the road to the British Embassy for an official reception.

Before walking inside President Hollande, who has two months left in office, shouted cheekily to the the waiting press: 'Come back whenever you want!'

The trio sit down to chat in the Elysee Palace (AFP/Getty Images)

The trip has enormous political significance as the Royal Family are being seen as key assets in the British Government's effort to woo Europe - as well as develop trading links in other parts of the world - following the Brexit vote.

'The British Royal Family are some of the most important diplomats we have,' said an FCO source,' and will play a major part in our 'soft diplomacy' efforts.'

At a briefing a few hours in advance of the trip, however, William's official spokesman was forced to make his first public acknowledgement of the furore around the royal's controversial ski holiday earlier this week.

The future king's party antics in Verbier saw him skip a key Commonwealth service with the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family on Monday.

Asked if the prince had any comment on the furore, a Kensington Palace spokesman declined to answer directly and said:' All I can say is that the Duke is very much looking forward to the visit.'

It was the first time that anyone from the palace has publicly acknowledged the story, which is still making headline news around the world.

French President Francois Hollande (AP)

Today's visit is the first time that either William or Kate have visited Paris officially, although both have spent time in the city privately.

Kensington Palace has confirmed that William has visited since his late mother's death in the city almost 20 years ago.

He and Kate's whirlwind, 24-hour visit will also include a reception at the British Embassy in Paris to launch Les Voisins - The Neighbours - a year-long celebration of UK-French links.

The couple will meet young French leaders from the arts, sports, fashion , business and the voluntary sector.

Later in the evening they will attend a glittering gala dinner at the stunning official residence of the British Ambassador, Edward Llewellyn - Lord Llewellyn of Steep, David Cameron's former chief of staff at Downing Street - which will see William and Kate mix with celebrities including actress Audrey Tatou and Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, who lives in the city, and footballer Robert Pires.

The Royal visit comes as Britain prepares to begin leaving the EU (AP)

On the menu is sole crown and Dublin Bay prawns, crayfish, braised leg of Welsh lamb with a seasonal vegetable garnish and roast potatoes with thyme, and an iced white and dark chocolate soufflé, butterscotch sauce with a pistachio and almond diamond shortbread.

Lord Llewellyn described the visit as 'exciting and special' and revealed that the embassy planned to launch at least one major initiative on the back of it.

He said: 'This is a very exciting and special day. This is the first official visit by the royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Paris. This is a country they know well but their first visit is an important and significant moment.

'I have been ambassador for four and half months and been very struck in that time by the deep affection in this country that there is for the Royal Family. I think that is very much evidence today when we see some of the French press coverage.

'This visit underlines the very close ties between Britain and France, countries which are allies, which are friends, but more than that we have the ties of neighbours.

"We will be launching during the Duke and Duchess's visit a programme - Les Voisins, The Neighbours. We will, over the course of this year ,celebrate, highlight and underline the ties that go beyond the traditional ties of Government, important though they are. [But] they are just one small thread in the rich patchwork at cultural, artistic, sporting and human levels.'

'He added: 'It is also about highlighting the shared challenges we face in this world. '