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Leading article: Charm offensive

Julius Caesar once summed up a battle with the words: "I came, I saw, I conquered." Another Italian-born aristocrat could make the same claim with regards to Britain this week. But whereas the Roman emperor's victory was achieved through force of arms, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's conquest of these isles was accomplished through beauty, grace, couture, not to mention a revealing photograph, which went on sale just as the French President and his wife arrived in Britain for the state visit.

But it did not matter. The first lady of the French Republic conducted herself with such demure poise on her visit that even those sections of society inclined to scorn the former model with an "interesting" past were ruthlessly charmed.

If only every Continental leader had a Carla they could deploy on such visits. If they did, one suspects Britain would be a good deal closer to the heart of Europe by now.