French banquet for King Charles to be moved or even cancelled over safety fears amid protests
A lavish banquet planned for the King during next week’s state visit to France may be moved or even cancelled over safety fears linked to violent protests.
The banquet is scheduled to take place on Monday evening at the Palace of Versailles and has been billed as a “highlight” of the brief tour, which begins on Sunday.
However, reports suggest that the event could be relocated with the Elysée Palace in central Paris a likely replacement.
Sources told the local BFMTV channel: “The dinner between Charles III and Emmanuel Macron, planned for Monday, may not be held at Versailles, as initially planned”.
The station added: “The information we received is that the dinner will likely be moved to another location, possibly to the Elysee, officially for reasons of security.”
The King faces the prospect of being used as a political pawn by angry unions campaigning against President Macron's plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
More than 1,500 protests have already taken place in cities including Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Paris, with bins set alight, ring road blockaded, track invasions at railway stations, refinery demonstrations and electricity blackouts by strikers.
Protesters and trade unions have warned that they will make no exceptions to their strike action during the royal visit.
Safety fears over banquet
Original plans for the Versailles banquet, hosted by President Macron and his wife, Brigitte, reportedly involved 200 guests, a concert by the Royal Opera in the Royal Chapel and a lavish meal served on Sevres porcelain and Baccarat crystal in the Hall of Mirrors.
The hour-long drive the King and Queen Consort would have to take from Paris to Versailles would entail a long motorcade and road closures, and could risk being disrupted by protesters who have taken to descending on motorways to block traffic.
The city of Paris has ordered the entire public order and traffic department to work during the King’s visit.
Tram drivers have already vowed to refuse to take the King and Queen Consort on a short ride into the centre of Bordeaux, planned for Tuesday.
Sandrine Rousseau MP, for the Ecologist party, called for the cancellation of the visit.
"Unbelievable,” she told a local television station. “We are going to have Emmanuel Macron, the monarch who is going to welcome King Charles III in Versailles who is going to descend the Champs-Elysées and dine at Versailles while the people are protesting?
“Of course he should cancel this visit. Is the priority really to welcome Charles III in Versailles?"
Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the left-wing France Unbowed party said: “Mr King, listen, we have nothing against you here, but you're the king of the English – that's your business – but you should stay away from Versailles.”
A Buckingham Palace source said they were “keeping a close eye” on developments and admitted that there may be an impact on logistics.