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Charles is 'just the son': Parisians unfazed by king's visit to France

FILE PHOTO: Annual Braemar Highland Gathering

By Noemie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) -King Charles' state visit to France, from Wednesday to Friday, may be seen politically as a chance to rebuild ties between the two countries, but some Parisians said they were not impressed, and that they missed the glamour of late Queen Elizabeth.

The 74-year-old king, and his wife Queen Camilla, will be guests of honour at a state banquet in the gilded Versailles palace, where the menu will feature blue lobster, Bresse French poultry, and a selection of French and English cheeses.

Charles, a fluent French speaker like his mother, is keen to walk in her footsteps and is likely to refer to the late queen's deep affection for France during the visit, officials said.

Still, Parisians were sceptical.

"He's just the son, they are old already, we don't have a long history," retiree Mireille Mauve said.

His wife is "not so enchanting, she's a bit dull with her discourse. All this combined together doesn't create much interest," said the 88-year old, who liked Queen Elizabeth and her horses.

As part of the visit, Charles and Camilla will drive down the Champs-Elysees and view restoration works at the Notre-Dame cathedral following a massive blaze in 2019 that destroyed its roof.

There will be wreath laying at the Arc de Triomphe, with France's Patrouille acrobatique and Britain's Red Arrows, the aerobatics display teams of both nations' air forces, conducting a flypast at the start of the trip in celebration of the countries' shared history and values.

The trip is also a chance to rebuild ties that have been frayed by Britain's chaotic exit from the EU in 2020.

But 15-year-old Alexia Aubert said: "I think since Elizabeth died, the Royal family isn't as important as it was, King Charles isn't as important and symbolic as Elizabeth, so it doesn't really matter if he comes or not."

In Britain, polls suggest Charles is less popular than his mother, who had strong support from much of the public. Still, a YouGov survey released in September found 60% held a favourable view of him compared to 32% with a negative one.

Younger Britons, however, tend to be more negative, also with the concept of the monarchy itself.

In Paris, carpenter Edouard Val de Lievre said of the British monarchy: "It's a part of the folklore in England, for me it's just that."

"He (Charles) represents the English population but that's all, nothing special for me."

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden and Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Bernadette Baum)