‘The French are also in mourning’: France pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday hailed Queen Elizabeth II as "a friend of France... who marked her country and her century as never before", following the announcement of her death.

'The French are also in mourning': France pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) is greeted by her son Prince Charles ahead of a British D-Day commemoration ceremony in Bayeux cemetery, northern France, on June 6, 2014, marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II Allied landings in Normandy. (Photo by LEON NEAL / AFP)

“Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II embodied continuity and unity in the British nation for more than 70 years,” the French leader tweeted.

“I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left her mark on her country and her century forever,” he said, adding that flags over the Elysée Palace would fly at half mast on Friday and on the day of her funeral.

On Friday he recorded a special message in English to the people of the UK, and also went to the British Embassy in Paris to sign the book of condolence.

The lights on the Eiffel Tower were turned off later on Thursday evening as a mark of respect. 

British royals – especially the Queen – are very popular in France, and on Friday three of France’s main newspapers made her death their front page story.

A further statement from the Elysée Palace said: “France pays tribute to the woman who marked the history of her country, our continent and the century.

“She gave herself entirely to her kingdom. Rarely have subjects identified so much with a sovereign… She was one with her nation: she embodied a people, a territory, a common will.

“She had a special status in France and, in the hearts of the French, a singular place,” the statement read.

“No other foreign sovereign had climbed the steps of the Élysée more often than she, who gave France the honour of six state visits and met each of its presidents.”

“The queen of sixteen kingdoms loved France, and that love was reciprocated. The British people, all the countries of the Commonwealth tonight mourn the Queen. The French people are also in mourning.”

Queen Elizabeth died at Balmoral, her beloved country house in Scotland, aged 96, after 70 years on the throne.   

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy said the queen “was the symbol of the unfailing friendship between our two countries and of the values on which it is based”.

“I cherish the memory of a brilliant and free spirit, faithful to the heavy burden of her duties; of a humble and generous personality, who inspired entire generations”, he said.

Sarkozy also paid tribute to “her smile, full of kindness and playfulness” and her “deliciously British humour”.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also paid homage to the “exceptional” Queen and expressed her deepest condolences to the Royal family on behalf of Paris.

“I had the great pleasure and the chance to welcome her with her husband Prince Philip in Paris in June 2014 and to talk to this exceptional woman, with such keen intelligence and curiosity.

“On this occasion, I had the honour of inaugurating alongside her the “Queen Elizabeth II – Flower Market”  on the Ile de la Cité  which has since shone in the heart of Paris. It was a moment that I will not forget and an encounter that will remain etched in my memory.”

Earlier this year, to celebrate the Queen’s platinum Jubilee, the TV channel France Info produced this short film showing her meeting all nine of the French presidents who were in power since her reign began in 1952.

She’s also shown making several speeches in French to an appreciative audience.

To mark the 2022 Jubilee, President Emmanuel Macron recorded this special video message for her.

The Queen’s husband Prince Philip, who died in 2021, was also a competent French speaker and in fact spent part of his childhood in France.

The below video shows a visit to Charles de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace in 1966, when he made a witty speech on the subject of the Anglo-French relationship and the stereotypes that Brits and French hold of each other (and yes, he made a joke about frogs).

VIDEO: Watch Prince Philip making a speech in French (with a ‘frog’ joke)

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Migrant Channel crossings: What will France spend the €72.2 million euros on?

Britain has agreed to pay France another €72.2million to prevent migrant boat crossings under a new deal intended to improve cooperation between the two countries. But what the money actually be spent on?

Migrant Channel crossings: What will France spend the €72.2 million euros on?

The arrangement will lead to a 40 percent increase in the number of patrols to detect boats before they set out to sea, with UK officers joining their French counterparts for the first time.

That means an additional 100 officers will be involved in operations.

For the first time, teams of observers will be deployed on both sides of the Channel to “strengthen common understanding”.

The latest agreement comes just over a year after a previous deal saw France increase the number of police officers, gendarmes and customs agents dedicated to patrol its northern coastline to 650, in return for €63million in UK funding. 

There is not much in the way of in-depth detail available at the moment, but the new deal reportedly includes an agreement for extra investment in port infrastructure in France, better use of technology, including drones, and “greater cross-Europe cooperation”, as well as better coordinated information-sharing and efforts to offer migrants help and assistance before they make the dangerous crossing.

And part of the funding will be available for reception and removal centres in France for migrants prevented from travelling to the UK, to further deter crossing attempts, a UK government statement said.

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman said, after signing the agreement with French opposite number Gérald Darmanin: “We must do everything we can to stop people making these dangerous journeys and crack down on the criminal gangs. 

“This is a global challenge requiring global solutions, and it is in the interests of both the UK and French governments to work together to solve this complex problem.”

READ ALSO What is France doing to prevent ‘illegal’ Channel crossings to UK?

Adopting a more cooperative tone to the rhetoric she has employed in the House of Commons, Braverman added: “There are no quick fixes, but this new arrangement will mean we can significantly increase the number of French gendarmes patrolling the beaches in northern France and ensure UK and French officers are working hand in hand to stop the people smugglers.”

Joint British and French collaboration has already prevented over 30,000 illegal crossing attempts since the beginning of 2022, according to official figures – a year-on-year increase of more than 50 percent compared to the number of attempts thwarted in 2021.

Despite these efforts, about 40,000 people – mostly Albanians, Iranians and Afghans – have crossed the Channel to England from France this year. That figure is well over last year’s 28,561, which was a thousand-fold increase from 2018 when migrants and asylum seekers first began sailing inflatables across one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

The French government has previously said that the British government’s decision to close legal routes for people to apply for asylum from outside the UK is at least part of the problem, leaving them with little choice but to risk their lives in the Channel. 

They also claim that the lack of ID cards in the UK acts as a draw to people who believe it is easier to work illegally. The UK government rejects both these points.

On the Channel coast, doubts remain about whether incremental changes in the number of French officers patrolling the rugged dunes and wide beaches can reverse the rising tide of crossings.

Observers say the migrants’ boats are getting bigger, the tactics of smugglers more sophisticated, and departures are being recorded along a widening stretch of coastline.

Some 972 people were detected making the crossing on Saturday and 853 on Sunday during calm, sunny weather, according to UK figures.

The French coastguard is adamant that it cannot intercept boats once they are in the water because attempting to do so could cause them to capsize.

“I’ve watched so many British ministers over the years coming new to the problem and deciding that they are going to get a grip and somehow solve it,” former British ambassador to France, Peter Ricketts, told AFP.

“But they all end up falling back on the realisation that the only way to bring this under control is by working with the French,” he said.

“To their credit, the Sunak government has reached that conclusion quickly and today’s agreement is good news,” he added.