King Charles’ state visit to France on Sunday has been postponed, the Elysee Palace said, after social unrest over President Emmanuel Macron’s changes to the pension system erupted into violence in Paris and cities across France.
The Elysee said a joint decision was taken by the British and French governments after trade unions called for a further day of nationwide strikes and demonstrations during the king’s visit.
The postponement will be a major embarrassment to Macron, who had hoped the monarch’s visit would mark a symbolic step in the two countries’ efforts to turn a page after years of poor relations post-Brexit.
King Charles had been due to travel first to France for three days before moving on to Germany, an itinerary that had been seen as a coup for the French leader who has sought to position himself as Europe’s de facto leader.
“The visit will be rescheduled as soon as possible,” the Elysee said in a statement.
A Buckingham Palace source said King Charles’ visit to Germany will go ahead as planned.
Black-clad anarchists fought street battles with police for several hours in the French capital on Thursday, ransacking a McDonald’s restaurant, smashing up bus shelters and setting alight mounds of garbage that have piled up during strikes.
In Bordeaux, at the heart of one of France’s best-known wine growing areas and where King Charles had also been expected to visit, protesters set alight the entrance to the city hall.
The upending of plans to host King Charles – which included a lavish banquet at the Palace of Versailles – will only pile further pressure on Macron to find a way out of a crisis that has seen some of France’s worst unrest since the ‘Yellow Vest’ rebellion of 2018/2019.
The violence intensified after Macron’s government pushed legislation to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 through parliament without a vote. His government lacks a clear majority.