King Charles' French visit sign of strengthening ties- UK officials

Annual Braemar Highland Gathering

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - King Charles' rearranged state visit to France this month will cement improved Anglo-French relations as the two countries seek to strengthen ties that were strained by Brexit, British officials said.

Charles and his wife Queen Camilla will travel across the Channel on Sept. 20 for a three-day visit during which the king will address the French Senate, attend a banquet at the Palace of Versailles, and visit an organic vineyard in Bordeaux.

The original trip in March was due to be Charles' first state visit since becoming monarch after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth. But it was postponed amid violent protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms, although he did travel to Germany as planned.

The French tour has been heralded as a symbolic step in the two countries' efforts to turn a page after years of poor ties following the British vote to leave the European Union in 2016, and rows over fishing rights and migrants travelling from France to Britain across the Channel in small boats.

A senior British foreign office official said the relationship had been "steadily improving" following a summit British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Macron had held in March, and the king's trip would build on that.

"The speed with which we've been able to reinstate this visit, thanks to a huge amount of flexibility on both sides, I think is a testament to how important we both see this," the official, speaking of condition of anonymity, said.

Charles and Camilla will join Macron and his wife Brigitte for a ceremony of remembrance at the Arc de Triomphe, before the king and president hold a meeting and also attend a reception to discuss sustainability.

While in Paris, Charles will become the first British royal to address senators and members of the National Assembly at the French Senate, and he will also meet sports stars as France hosts the Rugby World Cup and prepares to stage the 2024 Olympics.

The trip concludes with a visit to the southern city of Bordeaux, where they will hear about the impact of wildfires and will be briefed by military officials on defence collaboration.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Angus MacSwan)