The life and legacy of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated the news since her passing earlier this month. The impact of her reign has been felt throughout the world, for better or worse, and it is estimated that over 4 billion people worldwide watched her funeral yesterday. I was one of them, as I’m always keen to watch history unfold in real time. And in doing so, it made me think about Queen Elizabeth’s connection to France, specifically here in Paris. Because like so many places worldwide, she made her mark on this city during her lifetime.
From a historical perspective, it might seem odd that Queen Elizabeth and France had a close relationship at all. Britain and France have famously clashed for hundreds of years, waging countless wars over the centuries. However, it hasn’t been all hostilities and carnage. When the French Revolution first broke out in 1789, the goal of the revolutionaries was not to abolish the monarchy. No, the early revolutionary leaders envisioned France as a constitutional monarchy, similar to the setup in England at the time. Of course, this is not what ultimately came to pass, but it is interesting to imagine what France would be like today if it had. Would a French king or queen been present at Westminster Abbey yesterday?
Queen Elizabeth and France
Despite centuries of animosity between the two countries, it is clear that Queen Elizabeth and France had a special connection. She visited France more often than any other foreign country during her 70 year reign, and she met with every French president during that time. In response to her passing earlier this month, current president Emmanuel Macron tweeted, “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen.” A sentiment shared by many I’m guessing.
Queen Elizabeth’s final visit to France was in 2014 when she travelled to Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II. During this trip, she visited the famous Marché aux Fleurs, or the Paris flower market. In honour of her visit, the market was renamed the Queen Elizabeth II Flower Market. A name it retains to this day. Personally, I find this hilarious, as the Marché aux Fleurs was originally founded by Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808. I’m sure Napoléon would be furious to learn that his flower market is now named after a British monarch. But such is the power of Queen Elizabeth’s enduring popularity. Not even Napoléon and Paris could withstand it.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.