Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2nd L) / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Alastair GRANT
British royals William and Kate are due to arrive in Paris on Friday in the prince’s first official visit to the French capital since his mother Diana died there.
During the two-day visit, the couple will meet survivors of the 2015 terror attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris and last year’s lorry attack in Nice as well as President Francois Hollande.
The trip comes as William, second-in-line to the throne, is under fire in the British media for missing a Commonwealth celebration to go skiing with friends.
William, 34, and Kate, 35, will be acting as goodwill ambassadors for Britain just as the country prepares to trigger the formal process of leaving the European Union.
French magazines have described their trip, organised at the request of Britain’s foreign ministry, as a charm offensive by Britain designed to show its neighbour it wants to retain close ties despite breaking away from the EU.
Gala magazine said they were “the glamorous card to make you forget Brexit” — a tactic that will tested when they travel to Germany and Poland in July.
The royals will launch a initiative called “Les Voisins” (The Neighbours), celebrating relations between France and Britain.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will also host a black-tie dinner at the British embassy and attend a Six Nations rugby match between France and Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.
Although no official commemoration is planned during the trip, it will be impossible to escape the poignancy of Diana’s eldest son visiting the city where she died on August 31, 1997.
William was just 15 and his brother Harry 12 when their mother and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed were killed after their Mercedes crashed in central Paris as it was being pursued at high speed by press photographers.
Their French chauffeur Henri Paul, who was later found to be over the legal blood alcohol limit, also died.
Officials say there are no plans for the prince to visit the crash site in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.
– ‘To help forget Brexit’ –
William has announced he is stepping down as an air ambulance helicopter pilot to focus more on royal business.
But he has been attacked in some British newspapers this week after a video emerged of him dancing at a nightclub during a skiing trip with friends in the Swiss resort of Verbier.
Some commentators questioned his work ethic after he missed a Commonwealth ceremony attended by his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II to go on the holiday.
The royal couple will be travelling to Paris without their children, three-year-old George and one-year-old Charlotte.
The Paris visit is another sign that the princes and their father, heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, are taking over official duties from the queen, who will turn 91 on April 21.
The prince has made private visits to Paris since his mother’s death, including with Harry to watch England play in the 2007 rugby World Cup.
During a holiday in the south of France in 2012, long lens photographs were taken showing Kate topless.
The shots were published in the celebrity magazine Closer but the royal couple took action in the French courts to prevent them being published around the world.