Queen Elizabeth ends state visit to France


PARIS -- Queen Elizabeth II of England ended a four-day state visit to France Friday marked by pomp and circumstance and meetings with top French officials.

Throughout the visit Elizabeth underscored historical ties between England and France, at one point saying that Latin Europe was to the Anglo-Saxon tradition what oil is to vinegar, and reminding her listeners that 'both are necessary to season the salad.'


Problems of the royal family were expected to dominate the visit, but once Elizabeth set foot on French soil on Tuesday the controversy surrounding Princess Diana's marriage to Prince Charles was forgotten.

The queen returned to London following a visit to the southwest wine capital of Bordeaux, where she recalled the history that for 300 years intertwined the Aquitaine region of France and her own country following the ascension of Henry II to the British throne.

During her four-day state visit, the first to France since 1972, Elizabeth was feted at a gala dinner at the presidential Elysee Palace, visited the pyramid at the Louvre Museum, opened an exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures, admired paintings by French Impressionists, rode up the Champs Elysees in the same automobile she used 20 years earlier and toured the Loire Valley city of Blois.


The queen also boarded the TGV high-speed train and hosted President Francois Mitterrand and his wife Danielle to a dinner aboard her royal yatch 'Britannia,' docked in the port of Bordeaux for the occassion.

But while Elizabeth, who is observing her 40th year on the throne this year, was cheered by thousands of Frenchmen along the way, observers said the popular enthusiasm evident during her last state visit 20 years ago was lacking.

Parisians in particular seemed upset by the tight security and huge traffic jams that surrounded the queen wherever she went, usually in the company of Mitterrand.

In both Blois and Bordeaux, however, the queen was received more warmly than in the capital, perhaps because it was easier to get a glimpse of her.

Elizabeth made a point of speaking French throughout the visit, frequently sprinkling her remarks with a sense of dry British humor. Her heavy accent also caused much good-natured ribbing among television commentators.

But the queen refrained from making any important statements on European unity as she had done in a speech to the European Parliament last month. Political observers in Paris said the queen had apparently decided that, given the current divisions in many countries over the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and political unity, it was best to maintain a royal silence.


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