President Macron breaks social distancing rules by touching Prince Charles on arm during London visit

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

The Prince of Wales had to dodge a forgetful Emmanuel Macron as the French president appeared to reach out to touch Charles’s arm, when they were meant to be social distancing.

Despite already battling off coronavirus, Prince Charles looked as though he did not want to take any risks as he moved his arm from Macron’s outstretched hand during a meeting in London.

Macron was received by the royals with a guard of honour formed by No 7 Company Coldstream Guards who were accompanied by the Band of the Coldstream Guards at Clarence House.

Charles, 71, has long been using a namaste greeting to meet people while handshakes are banned, and the gesture was adopted by his wife and by Macron on Thursday afternoon.

After the guard of honour, the trio laid wreaths in nearby Carlton Gardens and Macron bestowed France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur, on London, to mark the UK capital’s support for the exiled French in the Second World War.

Pictures show Charles and Macron appearing to walk closely together despite needing to remain two metres apart during their visit.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall greet French president Emmanuel Macron with a namaste gesture at Clarence House in London. (PA Images)
Charles and Macron occasionally appeared to stray from the two-metre social distancing guidelines. (PA Images)
The Prince of Wales receives French president Emmanuel Macron at Clarence House in London during his visit to the UK. (PA Images)
Charles greets Macron with a namaste gesture at Clarence House. (Getty Images)

Read more: Queen sends message of condolence to Dame Vera Lynn's family

The rain passed as they headed to Carlton Gardens, where Charles De Gaulle and the Free French made their wartime base and began to build up their forces.

Macron laid a wreath at the King George VI and the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother statues, while Charles laid a wreath at the Charles De Gaulle statue.

Charles’ grandfather George VI reigned during the Second World War and after Buckingham Palace was bombed on September 13 1940, the Queen Mother said she felt she could “look the East End in the face”.

The Prince of Wales quoted De Gaulle as he made a short speech, mostly in French, in Carlton Gardens, where he and the French president were joined by foreign secretary Dominic Raab and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

He said: "Keeping in mind the words of General De Gaulle in 1940: 'Should hope disappear? No'.”

Charles added: “It is a matter of particular pride for me, therefore, that not only should this statue of Général de Gaulle stand here in our capital; but that it should stand a few short steps from those of my beloved grandparents who so admired his fortitude.”

Emmanuel Macron lays a wreath at the statue of former French president Charles de Gaulle at Carlton Gardens. (Getty Images)
Prince Charles lays a wreath at the statue of former French president Charles de Gaulle at Carlton Gardens. (Getty Images)

Of De Gaulle, Macron said: “When he came to England he brought French spirit.

“British monarchy then became a shelter for the French Republic, then England decided to give shelter to France."

He said the first weapon handed to De Gaulle was a BBC microphone.

Macron continued: “De Gaulle became the voice and breath of free France. He carried the fate of a country that was out of breath, and he did it from London.

“The London people did not only welcome the free France, they inspired it," the French president continues.

"Britain was fighting alone against the enemy and it did it because of the courage of its people, and De Gaulle recognised that."

Read more: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Archewell trademark application is too vague

Charles and Macron both gave short speeches during the ceremony. (Getty Images)
Macron bestowed France's highest honour on London to thank the city for its help to De Gaulle. (WireImage)
The pair did not seem to maintain 2m distance the whole afternoon. (WireImage)

Charles said it gave him “utmost pleasure and pride” to accept the Legion d’Honneur on behalf of London.

Macron is in the UK to mark the 80th anniversary of De Gaulle’s ‘Appel’ to the French republic, considered the start of the French Resistance.

General de Gaulle made it from BBC Broadcasting House in London as the French government prepared to sign an armistice with the Nazi invaders.

Later on Thursday afternoon, the Queen called Macron, to mark the anniversary.

The Queen is unable to receive guests at this point in the pandemic, as her age puts her at high risk if she were to catch coronavirus.

Writing on Twitter, the Royal Family said: “This evening, The Queen spoke to The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, by telephone during his visit to the UK to mark the 80th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s famous wartime broadcast.

“The broadcast, ‘L’Appel du 18 juin’ - sent out from London where de Gaulle was in exile - rallied the people of France in support of the Resistance. It is regarded as one of the most important speeches in French history.

“Her Majesty’s call follows President Macron’s formal welcome to the UK by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House this afternoon.”

The account also shared photos of the Queen and De Gaulle in 1960.

Charles last met Macron in January when the men both attended The World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. They were also both at the NATO summit in December 2019.

Charles and Camilla made their return to in person engagements this week as the Royal Family appeared to bring back some normality.

Prince Charles and Emmanuel Macron inspect a guard of honour from the Grenadier Guards. (Getty Images)
Camilla, Charles and Macron follow a piper as they arrive to lay wreaths at the statue of former French president Charles de Gaulle at Carlton Gardens. (Getty Images)

Read more: Duchess of Cambridge tells children lockdown is 'difficult for us all' in online assembly

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall made a socially distanced visit to a hospital in Gloucestershire, meeting outside with staff who they thanked for their hard work during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Prince William carried out an engagement at an ambulance station in Norfolk, and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, joined Childline on a counselling shift.

It’s likely the majority of events will still be held virtually.

Charles De Gaulle and the Queen in 1960. (Getty Images)

Despite the UK’s new rules, Macron and his team did not have to self-isolate as they arrived in London on Thursday, having exemption for a diplomatic meeting.

After meeting with the royals, Macron went onto Downing St for bilateral talks with Boris Johnson.

The men are expected to discuss an easing of coronavirus quarantine measures, currently set at two weeks for new arrivals.