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Macron honours London 80 years after de Gaulle's call to resist Nazi occupation

Britain's Prince Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron inspect a guard of honour from the Grenadier Guards at Clarence House in central London on June 18, 2020.
Britain's Prince Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron inspect a guard of honour from the Grenadier Guards at Clarence House in central London on June 18, 2020. AFP - JONATHAN BRADY

In London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle’s appeal for French resistance against the Nazis, President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday hailed the British capital a "city of wartime hope" as he gave it France’s highest distinction – the Legion d’Honneur.

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Macron attended a wreath-laying ceremony alongside Prince Charles and wife Camilla before he formally presented the award, describing London as a city "whose very name restored hope to the French people under the yoke of the occupation”.

The British capital becomes the seventh city to receive the Legion d’Honneur thanks to a radio address made by de Gaulle, in exile, from a BBC studio shortly after the Nazi invasion.

More than any other intervention the speech, known as the Appeal of 18 June, which was delivered with permission from Winston Churchill, symbolises de Gaulle’s status as a national hero leading France’s resistance to the occupying German army.

A statue of Churchill that stands on Parliament Square was uncovered for Macron’s visit. It had been boarded up since last week to prevent it from being damaged by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Four men who played major roles in the French Resistance during World War Two also received honours Thursday. Edgard Tupet-Thome, aged 100, Daniel Cordier, 99, Hubert Germain, 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98, were not be present, however, and will receive their awards in France later. 

They are the only surviving holders of the Croix de la Liberation, an honour bestowed by de Gaulle on 1,038 men and women who distinguished themselves in the struggle to liberate France.

Before heading to the UK, Macron first visited the Liberation Museum at Les Invalides, where he met with Germain, who is a boarder there.

French Resistance fighters take position behind a wall in August 1944 during the battle for the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation during World War II.
French Resistance fighters take position behind a wall in August 1944 during the battle for the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation during World War II. AFP

Then, alongside his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, but without an audience due to health concerns, he attended a traditional ceremony at the Mont Valérien memorial, the main place of execution for resistance fighters and hostages.

The Patrouille de France, the acrobatic arm of the French Air Force, and the Red Arrows of the Royal Air Force, flew over Mont Valérien and Churchill's statue in front of Paris's Petit Palais.

Brexit trade talks on the agenda

On his first trip outside France since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March, Macron will hold talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about their countries’ responses to the pandemic.

Macron and other diplomatic visitors are exempt from Britain's quarantine requirement for foreign visitors.

Brexit should also be on the agenda, as pressure increases on Britain and the EU to reach a trade deal before the end of the year, while they'll also likely discuss the idea of a quarantine-free travel corridor between France and the UK.

– With Wires

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