French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets Prince Charles on wartime broadcast anniversary

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The Independent Online

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a symbolic visit to London today to mark the 70th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle's radio broadcast urging his nation to resist the Nazi occupation of France.

The Prince of Wales greeted Mr Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, as they arrived at Clarence House during a day of official engagements to commemorate the historic milestone.



On June 18, 1940, General de Gaulle appealed to his countrymen over the BBC airwaves.



His rallying cry came the day after Marshal Philippe Petain's government announced its surrender to the Germans and is widely seen as the founding act of the Second World War French Resistance.



Few Frenchmen actually heard General de Gaulle declare that "the flame of French resistance must not and will not be extinguished".



But further broadcasts in the following days led to him becoming so well-known that he was subsequently court martialled in his absence and sentenced to death for treason.



The British Government had originally not wanted to allow him to issue his rallying cry, but the Cabinet was persuaded by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to let him go ahead.



Mr Sarkozy is the first French president to mark the anniversary in London. He and his wife began the day with a visit to the B2 studio at BBC Broadcasting House from where General de Gaulle's original appeal was made.



They were met by BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons, then visited an exhibition on the BBC during the Second World War, before unveiling a plaque in memory of the event.













Charles kissed Ms Bruni's hand as he greeted France's first couple.

The group posed for waiting photographers.



Ms Bruni, who was wearing a grey shift dress and black kitten heels, said "Bonjour" to waiting officials.











The Prince and the president jointly laid a wreath at the statues of King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, in The Mall.

The Royal Air Force band played both national anthems for the dignitaries, who included the Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox.



Charles and Mr Sarkozy went on to lay wreaths at the statue of General de Gaulle in Carlton Gardens while Ms Bruni looked on.



The Prince's wreath said: "In special memory of Franco-British solidarity 70 years ago."



Both men bowed their heads before the memorial.



A French trumpeter then sounded The Last Post and a minute's silence was observed.



The RAF band then played a refrain from Le Marseillaise.



Royal Navy personnel from HMS Nelson stood alongside the statue next to their French counterparts, from Le porte-avions Charles de Gaulle.















The group then visited the former headquarters of the Free French in Carlton Gardens.

The Prince and the president were presented with photographs showing General De Gaulle in the office which is now home to a French law firm.



















Mr Sarkozy was met by the Prime Minister at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where they were greeted by a flypast of a Spitfire, a Typhoon and a French Air Force Rafale.

A crowd of 1,600 spectators watched Mr Sarkozy award the Legion d'Honneur to six World War II veterans, three British, who took part in the Operation Dragoon landings in Provence in August 1944.



Ms Bruni met the Prime Minister's wife, Samantha Cameron, wearing a black and white dress, at the ceremony.



In a short speech, Mr Cameron said: "Today is a reminder that Britain and France are not just neighbours in the geographical sense but also in the emotional sense.



"In the BBC studio, Gen de Gaulle declared that France was not alone and he was right.



"Behind her in that struggle was the might of the British armed forces and the friendship of the British people and the resolve of the British Prime Minister."



Mr Cameron paid tribute to British and French troops fighting alongside each other in Afghanistan today.















Mr Cameron told the crowd: "In Afghanistan, Britain and France have been fighting together for many years now.

"Every time I visit Afghanistan as I did last week, I'm struck by the courage and the professionalism and the good humour of our armed forces."



He said he was "delighted" Mr Sarkozy and his wife were visiting London and said he had "great respect" for the French president's leadership.



Mr Cameron said he was committed to working with France to face "huge challenges".



"Just as our two great countries stood together in the past, so we must stand shoulder to shoulder today."



Mr Sarkozy said he was "happy and proud" to be in Britain and joked that the "lovely London sunshine" was "not so usual".



Addressing Mr Cameron as "my dear David", he said: "By recognising (Gen de Gaulle's) legitimacy, Britain made known forever that ... the only true France could be that France which had not stooped to betrayal, the only true France was that that had the will to fight on, the only true France was that which did not accept defeat."











A Downing Street spokesman said Mr and Mrs Cameron had a "very warm" meeting with President Sarkozy and his wife over lunch later.

The main course was roast fillet of Cornish sea bass, with paisley potatoes and seasonal vegetables. The dessert was baked lemon tart and berry fruit compote.



The two leaders also discussed the fortunes of their countries' football teams at the World Cup, in the wake of France's disastrous defeat to Mexico last night.



"While this was most of all an opportunity to build personal relationships further, there was a discussion of shared priorities," the spokesman said.



"In particular, there was agreement on the need to step up international efforts on reducing maternal mortality, and that this should be a key theme of next week's G8 Summit in Canada.



"In the course of his discussions with President Sarkozy this morning, the Prime Minister also passed on his condolences for the floods in the south of France, and the leaders talked through the current state of play on Afghanistan and the global economy ahead of next week's G20 summit.



"The Prime Minister and the president had an opportunity to swap notes on the progress of their respective teams in the World Cup."















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