Rain falls on the Queen's Parisian parade

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The Independent Online

The Queen was welcomed to Paris yesterday with great official pomp, but only a modest popular enthusiasm, at the start of a three-day state visit to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale.

The Queen was welcomed to Paris yesterday with great official pomp, but only a modest popular enthusiasm, at the start of a three-day state visit to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale.

Thin crowds turned out to applaud and shout "Vive la Reine" on a day spoiled by bad weather. On a short walkabout, between the Elysée Palace, the residence of President Jacques Chirac, and the British embassy, the Queen was not in a mood to stop and chat in blustery rain.

The Duke of Edinburgh talked enthusiastically to people but he was soon chivvied into catching up with the Queen by M. Chirac's wife, Bernardette. "The Queen walks very fast," she told the Duke, as if he was a small boy who was in danger of getting lost in the crowd.

A German tourist approached a policewoman to complain: "A year ago the French and British were insulting each other. Now I come to Paris and what do I find? The whole city is stopped to let the Queen of England drive up the Champs Elysées. It's crazy."

"No," said the officer, politely. "It's politics."

The visit launches a seven-month programme of exchanges and cultural events to mark the centenary of the official treaty of friendship between the two countries, signed in London on 8 April, 1904. It is hoped the entente celebrations will help to bury the memory of a bitter spat between the two governments over the invasion of Iraq.

In a speech, given in French, at a state dinner at the Elysée Palace last night, the Queen said: "Just as our statesmen and my great-grandfather [King Edward VII realised 100 years ago, we too need to recognise that we cannot let immediate political pressures, however strongly felt on both sides, stand between us in the longer term."

Earlier, the Queen had done something new, even after such a long career ­ she travelled on a state visit by train. Before boarding a special Eurostar service, she named the train "Entente Cordiale".

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