Swapping of the Guard: French and British troops mark Entente Cordiale

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Swapping of the Guard: French and British troops mark Entente Cordiale
A member of France's Gendarmerie Garde Republicaine swaps hats with a member of the British Army's F Company Scots Guards following a rehearsal for a special Changing of the Guard ceremony, at Wellington Barracks in London. Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP

French and British troops on Monday will swap roles to take part in the changing of the guards ceremonies outside the palaces of the other country's head of state, in an unprecedented move to celebrate 120 years since the Entente Cordiale.


Signed in 1904, the Entente Cordiale accord cemented an improvement in relations after the Napoleonic Wars and is seen as the foundation of the two NATO members' alliance to this day.

The ceremonies will see British guards in a historic first take part in the changing of the guard outside the Elysée Palace of President Emmanuel Macron and his French guards then do the same outside Buckingham Palace in London of King Charles III.

At the Elysée, 16 members of the Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards of the UK embassy, wearing their traditional bearskin hats, will relieve French counterparts from the first infantry regiment from 9.30am.

The French army choir will then sing the two national anthems -- God Save the King and La Marseillaise.


"This is the first time in the history of the Elysée that foreign troops have been invited to participate in this military ritual," said a French presidential official.

At the end of 2023, Macron made the changing of the Republican Guard public again, on the first Tuesday of each month. The ceremony is, however, much less spectacular than its counterpart outside the royal palace in London.

Two sections of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiment of France's Republican Guard will participate in the changing of the guard ceremony in front of Buckingham Palace, alongside guards from F Company Scots Guards and other British forces, the French presidential official said.

In London the ceremony will be watched by The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh (Prince Edward and his wife Sophie) accompanied by the UK chief of the general staff, General Patrick Sanders and French chief of the army staff Pierre Schill.

The event on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace will mark the first time a country from outside the Commonwealth - which mostly includes English-speaking former British colonies and possessions - has taken part in the changing of the guard ceremony.

The signing of the Entente Cordiale on April 8th, 1904 is widely seen as preparing the way for France and Britain joining forces against Germany in World War I.

While the Entente Cordiale is often used as shorthand to describe the Franco-British relationship, ties have been bedevilled by tensions in recent years particularly after Brexit.

Migration has been a particular sticking point, with London pressuring Paris to halt the flow of migrants across the Channel.


But a state visit by King Charles last autumn - one of his last big foreign engagements before his cancer diagnosis - was widely seen as a resounding success that showed the fundamental strength of the relationship.

"This anniversary is therefore an opportunity to promote the historic military, diplomatic, economic and cultural ties that unite France and the United Kingdom and to reaffirm our common values," said the French presidential official.


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