Paris crowd turns out for glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II
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The French capital had a touch of royal fever on Saturday, as Britain’s Queen Elizabeth breezed through town on the last stop of her official visit to France for the D-Day commemorations.
After the dinner hosted by French President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace on Friday and a city hall reception thrown by Paris’s recently elected mayor, Anne Hidalgo, Saturday morning, the Queen was whisked off to a flower market for the unveiling of a plaque bearing her name.
Located on the Ile de la Cité, one of Paris’s two central islands, the flower market will now be called Marche aux Fleurs Reine Elisabeth II (Queen Elizabeth II Flower Market). The Queen reportedly selected the location herself as one of her favourite spots in Paris. According to French media, the market has sentimental value for her, since the last time she was there she was pregnant with her son, Charles.
Though security for the ceremony presided over by Hollande was heavy, hundreds of tourists and locals lined the adjacent street hoping for a glance of the Queen in her pale rose suit.
Many languages could be overheard, but chief among them, unsurprisingly, were English and French.
“She’s amazing,” gushed Liz Brooks, a sixty-ish British woman on holiday in Paris with her husband and long-time friends from Australia. “At 88, she’s still so interested in everything. We used to have a house in Normandy, so we’re very sensitive to the history of the landings and to the whole French-English connection.”
Brooks said she had met the Queen once when receiving a national award. “She was marvellous,” she recalled. “Easy to talk to, very professional. Quite an amazing lady.”
Younger fans of the Queen were also on hand to behold the spectacle, which was projected on a big screen set up next to the flower market for those unable to get closer to the action.
“It’s probably the last time we’ll get to see her in France,” said Marie, a twentysomething Parisian accompanied by her boyfriend. “I think it’s important to see her once in your life. She’s the last great monarch of Europe.”
Marie admitted to a bit of royal envy. “I love the fact that she’s England personified. Here in France, we elect presidents that come and go every five years, but the Queen remains the symbol of her country no matter where she goes.”
‘More accessible’ than Obama
Even those who don’t necessarily consider themselves Queen enthusiasts found reason to enjoy the scene.
Françoise, a middle-aged Parisian woman who showed up with her teenage son, works on the Champs-Elysées and was therefore able to see Obama when he arrived for a dinner with Hollande at a restaurant Thursday night. But she said she preferred waiting for the Queen.
“The security for Obama was too much; there were even snipers on the rooftops around us. I’m not obsessed with the Queen, but I like that she’s more accessible. And she’s so cute,” Françoise said, though she added: “Perhaps renaming a flower market for her is a bit much.”
This was Elizabeth II’s fifth official visit to France, a country she is known to have particular affection for.
On Friday, she participated in the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, along with several heads of state that included US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The queen was accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.