Prince Charles to attend D-Day anniversary
Tuesday 02 June 2009
The Prince of Wales will attend the 65th commemorations of the D-Day landings in France, it was reported today.
Neither the Queen nor any other member of the royal family had been invited to join the official events in Normandy on Saturday.
But following calls for them to attend and reports of the Queen being snubbed, the Daily Telegraph reported on its website that heir to the throne Charles will now represent the Queen at the D-Day anniversary.
Clarence House confirmed that Charles would now attend and had been invited by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
A Clarence House spokesman said: "The Prince of Wales will be attending the commemorations on D-Day in Normandy on the invitation of President Sarkozy."
It is believed that the turnaround came after Charles himself spoke to the Queen, saying he believed it was appropriate he should attend.
An official invitation was received today from the French Ambassador.
Royal aides held talks with Downing Street today to discuss the matter.
The decision came as the White House revealed it was lobbying to get the Queen an invite to the commemorations.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs indicated that pressure was being put on the French to rectify the situation.
"We are working with those involved to see that it happens," he said in reference to the Queen's attendance.
Charles will attend the main commemoration with US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
He may also attend other events in Normandy, but no details have been released so far.
It is not yet known whether he will be accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall.
The absence of the Queen from the guest list was perceived by some as a deliberate snub by the French authorities.
Some commentators suggested that Mr Sarkozy was primarily interested in hosting the visiting President Obama.
Charles is said to be on good terms with Mr Sarkozy, with the relationship enabling him to set the wheels in motion to attend.
Buckingham Palace previously said that no members of the Royal Family would be attending.
A spokeswoman said: "Neither the Queen nor any other members of the Royal Family will be attending the D-Day commemorations on June 6 as we have not received an official invitation to any of these events.
"We would like to reiterate that we have never expressed any sense of anger or frustration at all, and are content with all the arrangements that are planned."
Officials in Paris insisted that the Queen was welcome. They blamed the UK Government for deciding who should attend what they said was "primarily a Franco-American ceremony".
The June 6 1944 Normandy landings saw thousands of Allied troops pour on to the beaches of occupied France and marked a strategic turning point in the war against Germany.
For the 60th anniversary of the invasion in 2004, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales all attended commemoration events in France.
The Royal British Legion said it was "absolutely delighted" that the Prince would be attending.
"This day is about the veterans and as many people that can be there to show their thanks the better," a spokeswoman for the Legion said.
"(The veterans) are such heroes and we have so much to thank them for. We're absolutely delighted."
Eddie Slater, national chairman of the Normandy Veterans Association, said the decision had come too late and branded the situation a "circus".
Veterans' plans and itineraries had already been put in place months in advance, he added.
Mr Slater said: "It's totally unfair that this decision has been made at this time.
"If we had been told months ago we would have rejoiced but it's poor judgment on somebody's part.
"This has been made into a political matter. It's not a pilgrimage now. All the focus will be on the politicians, not the veterans. It's too late."
He added: "We go across for a pilgrimage. It's been turned into a circus."
Mr Slater, 85, from Colchester, Essex, was 20 when he was on board the frigate HMS Thornborough at Sword Beach for the D-Day landings.
He recalled: "The whole ship was silent even though the engines were going full blast. Nobody spoke for minutes.
"The sight was awe inspiring. The whole horizon was filled with ships of all shapes and sizes. It was unbelievable."
He expressed regret that the Queen would not be there on Saturday.
"It's important. She is the only world head of state who actually served in the war, in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service)."
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