'Emptiness': Republican France mourns queen's death

·2-min read

President Emmanuel Macron led an outpouring of French tributes on Friday to Queen Elizabeth II, saying that "we all feel an emptiness" following her death.

Despite France's revolutionary history which saw republicans behead the king in 1793, the country has long been fascinated by the British royal family and particularly attached to its longest-serving monarch.

Her death obscured, perhaps only briefly, recent political tensions between the two  over Brexit, migrants trying to cross the Channel and fishing.

"With her, France and the United Kingdom shared not just an 'entente cordiale', but a warm, sincere and loyal partnership. To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was the Queen," Macron said in English in a video message posted on Twitter.

"We are grateful for her deep affection for France: Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our culture and touched our hearts," he added.

Macron later travelled to the British embassy, a short distance from the French presidential palace, where he left a hand-written message of condolence, calling her a "queen of courage and fortitude".

French newspapers cleared their front pages for news of the death on Friday, with the headline on the Parisien newspaper reading "We loved her so much."

Well-wishers placed flowers outside the British embassy where two giant portraits of the Queen dating back to celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne earlier this year still hung on the walls.

"I never knew my own grandparents and it feels like I've lost my grandmother," Victoria Cazals, 48, said as she choked back tears after leaving a bouquet on the pavement.

"It's true that France didn't want its own royalty, but the Queen is so emblematic of our contemporary era, I still can't believe she's not there," she said alongside her 17-year-old daughter.

"The passing of the crown is a story thousands of years old, so of course you get attached to it. We follow everything, the babies, the marriages, and what the Queen did."

Other tributes were held around France and flags were lowered over many public buildings.

In Nice on the Mediterranean coast, long a favourite holiday spot for aristocratic Britons, a giant portrait of the queen was placed on the waterfront Promenade des Anglais where British flags flew at half staff.

"Today Nice and France are crying with the United Kingdom," wrote local MP Eric Ciotti from the right-wing Republicans party.

The queen spoke French fluently and first visited the country in 1948, aged 22, as a princess.

She returned as queen in 1957, meeting with president Rene Coty for the first of five state visits.

"In Europe, the Anglo-Saxon tradition is to the Latin tradition what oil is to vinegar," the Queen told then president Francois Mitterrand in 1992 at a tense time in Anglo-French relations.

"You need both to make a sauce, otherwise the salad is badly dressed," she said.