Swapping of the Guard: French, British troops mark Entente Cordiale

Swapping of the Guard: French, British troops mark Entente Cordiale
Swapping of the Guard: French, British troops mark Entente Cordiale

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Members of the British Army’s Band of the Grenadier Guards are reflected in a puddle as they take part in a rehearsal for a special Changing of the Guard ceremony, at Wellington Barracks in London on April 5, 2024. — AFP pic

PARIS, April 8 — French and British troops today will swap roles to take part in the changing of the guards ceremonies outside the palaces of the other country’s head of state, in an unprecedented move to celebrate 120 years since the Entente Cordiale.

Signed in 1904, the Entente Cordiale accord cemented an improvement in relations after the Napoleonic Wars and is seen as the foundation of the two Nato members’ alliance to this day.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron and his French counterpart Stephane Sejourne celebrated their “close friendship” in a joint op-ed published late Sunday.

They said it was key at a time when Nato is mobilised to ensure Ukraine does not lose its fight to repel the Russian invasion.

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“Britain and France, two founding members and Europe’s nuclear powers, have a responsibility in driving the alliance to deal with the challenges before it,” the diplomats wrote in The Telegraph.

“We must do even more to ensure we defeat Russia. The world is watching — and will judge us if we fail.”

The ceremonies will see British guards take part in the changing of the guard outside the Elysee Palace of President Emmanuel Macron, and his French guards do the same outside Buckingham Palace in London of King Charles III.

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At the Elysee, 16 members of the Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards of the UK embassy, wearing their traditional bearskin hats, will relieve French counterparts from the first infantry regiment starting at 0830 GMT.

The French army choir will then sing the two national anthems — God Save the King and La Marseillaise.

“This is the first time in the history of the Elysee that foreign troops have been invited to participate in this military ritual,” a French presidential official said.

At the end of 2023, Macron made the changing of the Republican Guard public again, on the first Tuesday of each month, though the ceremony is much less spectacular than its counterpart outside Buckingham Palace.

‘Common values’

Two sections of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiment of France’s Republican Guard will participate in the London ceremony alongside guards from F Company Scots Guards and other British forces, the French presidential official said.

It will be watched by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh — Prince Edward and his wife Sophie — accompanied by the UK chief of the general staff, General Patrick Sanders, and French chief of the army staff Pierre Schill.

The event on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace will mark the first time a country from outside the Commonwealth — which mostly includes English-speaking former British colonies and possessions — has taken part in the changing of the guard.

The signing of the Entente Cordiale on April 8, 1904, is widely seen as preparing the way for France and Britain joining forces against Germany in World War I.

While the accord is often used as shorthand to describe the Franco-British relationship, ties have been bedevilled by tensions in recent years particularly after Brexit.

Migration has been a particular sticking point, with London pressuring Paris to halt the flow of migrants across the Channel.

But a state visit by King Charles last autumn — one of his last big foreign engagements before his cancer diagnosis — was widely seen as a resounding success that showed the fundamental strength of the relationship.

“This anniversary is therefore an opportunity to promote the historic military, diplomatic, economic and cultural ties that unite France and the United Kingdom and to reaffirm our common values,” the French presidential official said. — AFP

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