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British monarch dazzles at state banquet

April 5, 2004
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Bilingual British actresses Kristin Scott Thomas and Jane Birkin joined other luminaries from the political and artistic worlds at a banquet in the Elysee Palace hosted by President Jacques Chirac as a highlight of Queen Elizabeth's three-day state visit to France.

Spectacularly attired in a sparkling white gown accessorised with silver shoes, long white evening gloves, and a dazzling diamond tiara and necklace set, the Queen gave her speech at the banquet entirely in French. Admitting that the relationship between France and Britain has not always been smooth, she stressed that now both nations stand together, "resolute in defence of liberty and democracy."

The gala evening wrapped up a day of engagements marking the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, a diplomatic truce signed on April 8 1904, after the Queen's great grandfather, King Edward VII, decided the time had come for better understanding between France and Britain.

There were moments during the first day of her visit when it looked as though the entente was in danger of becoming a little too cordiale – President Chirac's hand hovered perilously close to the monarch's back several times while he motioned her forward after initial greetings. To touch the Queen is a noticeable breach of protocol.

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Photo: ©
The Queen and Prince Philip with President and Mme ChiracPhoto: © AFP
Photo: ©
Luminous British actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who lives in France with her family, arriving for the gala Photo: © AFP

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