LONDON – French President Emmanuel Macron marked Gen. Charles De Gaulle’s famed World War II appeal to resist the Nazis on Thursday in a special ceremony intended to invoke the deep friendship between the longtime allies.
Macron traveled to London to mark the day that De Gaulle delivered his defiant broadcast on the BBC 80 years ago, urging his nation to fight on despite the fall of France.
“Your nation spearheaded the liberation of the world. It erected, against Nazi barbarism, the most beautiful of the ramparts: that of unity and fraternity,” Macron told Prince Charles. “The United Kingdom gave Free France its first weapon: the microphone of the BBC.”
Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, received Macron at his Clarence House home with a guard of honor formed by the Number 7 Company of the Coldstream Guards and their band.
Macron awarded Charles the Legion of Honor as a symbol of France's gratitude. Charles responded in flawless French.
“I accept in the name of the city of London and United Kingdom and all those who fought for freedom at France’s side,'' the heir to the throne said. “Your presence today is a strong testimony to the ties that bind our countries, our people, our joint determination."
Neither men mentioned Brexit, which has strained the allies' relations in recent years and damaged the European Union, an effort at continental unity born from the ashes of World War II.
British Red Arrow planes and French military jets boomed over Paris on Thursday, trailing smoke in the blue-white-red colors of the French flag above the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides monument that houses Napoleon’s tomb. French planes are set to fly over London later Thursday.
The event on Thursday commemorates De Gaulle’s “Appel’’ via a BBC broadcast to his countrymen on June 18, 1940, urging them to fight on. The speech is widely considered to be the moment that gave birth to the French Resistance.
“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, call upon the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons ... to get in touch with me,” De Gaulle said. “Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished.”
The moment has huge significance for Macron, as he is eager to associate his presidency with the wartime leader. He hailed British courage in the Blitz, and offered praise for the spirit that allowed the public to “Keep Calm and Carry On.″
“London and its residents didn’t only take in the French Resistance,'' he said. “They inspired it, through their example.''
Macron started the commemorative day by visiting a de Gaulle memorial in France.
In a reflection of the importance of the event, the ceremony was Macron’s first international trip since France’s lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year 2020 also marks the 130th anniversary of De Gaulle’s birth and 50 years after his death.