Emmanuel Macron arrived in London today with simmering tensions over Brexit not stopping him paying tribute to the city as once being 'the capital of Free France' as he meets Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles.
The French president is visiting England to commemorate the 80th anniversary of his predecessor Charles de Gaulle's 'Appel' - a BBC broadcast to occupied France following the Nazi invasion in 1940.
General De Daulle led his free forces from London, which Mr Macron will decorate with the Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honour) - France's highest order of merit.
Despite such an honour, an Élysée Palace source said the pomp would be accompanied by tense behind-the-scenes talks, dominated by thorny issues including Brexit and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Before heading to Britain, Mr Macron took part in a traditional annual ceremony at Mont-Valerien outside Paris, a memorial for the French who fought against the Nazis and those who were killed by the occupying forces.
The Prince of Wales receives French president Emmanuel Macron to Clarence House in London on his visit to the UK today
'We have plenty of reasons to blame the English at the moment, but that does not erase the role played during the war,' said the presidential aide.
In a pointed dig at moves to remove statues such as one of Sir Winston Churchill from Westminster, the source added: 'We are not rewriting history'.
Before meeting Mr Johnson, President Macron arrived at Clarence House. Waiting to welcome him to their London home were the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and all three respected social distancing rules as they greeted each other.
Mr Johnson will give Emmanuel Macron a framed montage containing a telegram sent by de Gaulle to Sir Winston on VE Day.
The montage will also include Churchill's reply, and a photograph of the wartime leaders in Paris shortly after the liberation.
The Prime Minister's spokesman said Mr Johnson would also give Mr Macron a 'miniature replica of Churchill's open-topped Land Rover Defender to go with the president's model of Charles de Gaulle's car, which currently sits in president Macron's office'.
A convoy carrying French President Emmanuel Macron arrives on the Mall en route to Clarence House in London today
A Guard of Honour of the Coldstream Guards for Emmanuel Macron upon his arrival at Clarence House in London today
A plane carrying French president Emmanuel Macron lands at RAF Northolt in West London today for his visit to the UK
The plane carrying the French president comes into land at RAF Northolt this afternoon for his visit to the UK
Meanwhile Britain will honour four French Resistance fighters: Edgard Tupet-Thome, 100; Daniel Cordier, 99; Hubert Germain, 99, and Pierre Simonet, 98 - and there will be a Red Arrows flypast from about 5pm.
How Charles de Gaulle's rallying speech in 1940 was a seminal moment in the Second World War
Charles de Gaulle's rallying cry to the people of France on June 18 1940 is thought to mark the foundation of French resistance to the German occupation.
After refusing to support an armistice with France's invaders and facing imminent arrest, de Gaulle fled to London - arriving the day before he made his famous speech.
Charles de Gaulle issues a rallying cry to the people of France on June 18, 1940, which was broadcast in French on the BBC
Broadcast in French on the BBC, de Gaulle told his countrymen: 'The generals who, for many years, have been at the head of the French armies, have formed a government.
'This government, claiming the defeat of our armies, has made contact with the enemy to halt the fighting.'
The future president of France described how the country had been overwhelmed by Germany's blitzkrieg tactics and its seemingly 'infinite' supply of tanks and fighter planes.
But he said: 'Has the last word been said? Must all hope disappear? Is defeat definitive? No!
'Believe me, I am speaking to you with a full understanding of the facts and I tell you that nothing is lost for France.'
Listing France's supporters, he said: 'She is not alone! She is not alone!
'She has a vast empire behind her, she can form an alliance with the British Empire which holds the seas and continues the fight.
'She can, like England, call upon without limit the immense industry of the United States.'
He continued: 'This war is a world war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering do not prevent the fact there are, in the universe, all the means to one day crush our enemies.
'Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must never be extinguished and it will never be extinguished.'
Despite reaching only a small French audience at the time, the speech is considered one of the most important in all of France's history and a seminal moment in the Second World War.
Its significance is comparable to Sir Winston Churchill's 'We shall fight on the beaches' speech delivered earlier that same month.
The four will not be present, but will receive their awards in France later.
It came as Mr Macron's foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Britain was still struggling to understand the implications of its decision to leave the EU.
In a hard-hitting interview in Le Croix, Mr Le Drian said: 'When you are outside the Union, you do not enjoy the same advantages as when you are inside. You cannot have a foot in and a foot out.
'You have to choose, and I am not sure that they have understood the full magnitude of their withdrawal.'
Mr Drian did not rule out the EU failing to reach a trade deal with Britain, which stops abiding by EU rules in January.
'We cannot exclude the prospect of a No Deal but we want to avoid it,' said Mr Le Drian. 'The British are playing against the clock but that is not always the way to reach a good agreement.'
There was anger in Paris when the British imposed strict Coronavirus quarantine rules for those arriving from France, but Mr Macron and his presidential aides will not abide by them.
Mr Johnson 'made it clear that they can be waived for those on diplomatic business,' said the Élysée source.
Beyond Mr Johnson, Mr Macron will be meeting dignitaries including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall today, but French first lady Brigitte Macron will stay in Paris.
'She is undergoing an eye operation,' said the source, who explained that Ms Macron, who at 67 is 25 years older than her husband, will be wearing tinted glasses and not travelling 'for the next few weeks'.
The Prime Minister is expected to discuss the UK's current two-week quarantine for all arrivals with his French counterpart, amid reports that Mr Macron will call on the Government to revisit the decision.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government wants to 'open up' the UK when it 'safely and responsibly' can, and said ministers are looking 'very carefully' at the measure.
He told Sky News: 'As we've always said, the quarantine is there to stop the risk of reinfection precisely because we've got Covid down.'
Asked why it is in place when UK infection rates are higher than France, he said: 'It's not quite as simple as that though, because we've seen in Europe and in Asia, as countries come out of lockdown, the risk of second waves and second spikes.
'But we will look at all the factors very carefully. We want to open up as soon as we safely and responsibly can and we will look at all the mechanisms to do so, and of course we'll have a good conversation with the French.
'I'll be in Berlin tomorrow so we're talking to all of our European partners about these things.'
In Downing Street, Mr Johnson and Mr Macron will view artefacts - including letters - documenting General de Gaulle's time in London and his partnership with Sir Winston Churchill.
The statue of Britain's wartime leader in Parliament Square was uncovered on Wednesday evening ahead of the French president's arrival, after it was boarded up for fear of attack by protesters.
The two leaders will also watch a flypast of the Red Arrows and their French equivalent, La Patrouille de France, to mark the anniversary of the Appel.
Mr Johnson said: 'Eighty years ago, Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French Resistance, arrived in London knowing that the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that Britain and France shared were under threat.
French President Emmanuel Macron at a traditional annual ceremony at the Mont-Valerien, a memorial for the French who fought against the Nazis and those who were killed by the occupying forces at Suresnes in France today
The Patrouille de France perform the traditional annual ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle's appeal to the French people to resist the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, at the Mont-Valerien in Suresnes today
French President Emmanuel Macron (right) is greeted by French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (centre) and French Defence Minister Florence Parly (left) as he arrives for the traditional annual ceremony at the Mont-Valerien in Suresnes today
The Winston Churchill statue is pictured at Parliament Square in Westminster today having had the boarding taken down
Charles De Gaulle's former driver, now 101, says he was a 'very good figurehead but no good at organising'
A 101-year-old woman who was once Charles De Gaulle's driver when he lived in London has told how he was a 'very good figurehead but no good at organising'.
Olivia Jordan, who worked for the Free French Forces during the Second World War, added that his wife was 'rather better than him really - she was sweet.'
Ms Jordan, who now lives in a care home in southern England, volunteered to go to France aged just 21 just after the war began to drive ambulances for the French Army.
As France fell to the Nazis she was awarded the Croix de Guerre military decoration for her courage, and returned to London where she started working for the Free French Forces.
Mr Gaulle had no official car at first so Ms Jordan borrowed her father's vehicle.
She told BBC News: 'It was a big black car, it looked rather impressive. Nobody had smart cars in those days. And I sat in front and they used to say 'take us to so and so' and that sort of thing and funnily enough I was fairly good at it.'
Ms Jordan continued: 'I think he was a very good figurehead but he was no good at organising. I think his wife was rather better than him really.
'She was sweet. I say it now, I rather enjoyed the war because of that in that I had a sort of an interesting job. I knew exactly what was going on. And it was terribly exciting for me when it got rather better.'
'He pledged that we would stand together to defend those values and protect our citizens from those bent on destroying us.
'The four men we are honouring today - Pierre, Edgard, Daniel and Hubert - symbolise the enduring depth and strength of the friendship between our two countries.
'They are heroes, and I am immensely proud that, as a nation, we are paying tribute to their courage and sacrifice in defending us and the whole world from fascism.
'The struggles we face today are different to those we confronted together 80 years ago. But I have no doubt that - working side by side - the UK and France will continue to rise to every new challenge and seize every opportunity that lies ahead.'
Today will be given added poignancy by news of the death of British singer Vera Lynn, who famously who helped keep up morale during the Second World War. She was 103.
Mr Macron, who displays de Gaulle's war memoirs on his desk in his official photograph, is making much of 2020 as an anniversary year for the French resistance leader who would later become president of post-occupation France.
The general's iconic stature and his defiant wartime spirit are being tapped into even more during the unprecedented challenges posed by the epidemic.
In a telling reflection of his status, the vandalisation of a de Gaulle bust in northern France this week was met with a torrent of outrage.
In his radio broadcast from London, de Gaulle urged all those who could to carry on fighting for France, words that laid the foundation of the resistance movement and helped keep alive hope that France would be liberated, as it finally was in 1944.
'Has the last word been said? Should hope disappear? Is the defeat final? No! Believe me, I... tell you that nothing is lost for France,' he said.
'Long live free France in honour and independence': Charles de Gaulle's full speech in June 1940
The French government, after having asked for an armistice, now knows the conditions dictated by the enemy.
The result of these conditions would be the complete demobilisation of the French land, sea, and air forces, the surrender of our weapons and the total occupation of French territory. The French government would come under German and Italian tutelage.
It may therefore be said that this armistice would not only be a capitulation, but that it would also reduce the country to slavery. Now, a great many Frenchmen refuse to accept either capitulation or slavery, for reasons which are called: honour, common sense, and the higher interests of the country.
I say honour, for France has undertaken not to lay down arms save in agreement with her allies. As long as the allies continue the war, her government has no right to surrender to the enemy.
The Polish, Norwegian, Belgian, Netherlands, and Luxemburg governments, though driven from their territories, have thus interpreted their duty. I say common sense, for it is absurd to consider the struggle as lost. True, we have suffered a major defeat. We lost the battle of France through a faulty military system, mistakes in the conduct of operations, and the defeatist spirit shown by the government during recent battles.
But we still have a vast empire, our fleet is intact, and we possess large sums in gold. We still have allies, who possess immense resources and who dominate the seas. We still have the gigantic potentialities of American industry. The same war conditions which caused us to be beaten by 5,000 planes and 6,000 tanks can tomorrow bring victory by means of 20,000 tanks and 20,000 planes.
I say the higher interests of the country, for this is not a Franco-German war to be decided by a single battle. This is a world war. No one can foresee whether the neutral countries of today will not be at war tomorrow, or whether Germany's allies will always remain her allies. If the powers of freedom ultimately triumph over those of servitude, what will be the fate of a France which has submitted to the enemy?
Honour, common sense, and the interests of the country require that all free Frenchmen, wherever they be, should continue the fight as best they may.
It is therefore necessary to group the largest possible French force wherever this can be done. Everything which can be collected by way of French military elements and potentialities for armaments production must be organised wherever such elements exist.
I, General de Gaulle, am undertaking this national task here in England.
I call upon all French servicemen of the land, sea, and air forces; I call upon French engineers and skilled armaments workers who are on British soil, or have the means of getting here, to come and join me.
I call upon the leaders, together with all soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the French land, sea, and air forces, wherever they may now be, to get in touch with me.
I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me.
Long live free France in honour and independence!