The royal diary is definitely back up and running, and amidst all the excitement of #RoyalVisitSussex and the Duchess of Cambridge heading back to work, you might well have missed a rather glamorous and packed string of overseas engagements. This week, the Earl and Countess of Wessex were in Paris for a trip that took in culture and sport as well as embracing their work with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award scheme.
Edward and Sophie arrived in Paris on October 1st where their first port of call was the famous and fabulous Chateau Versailles. As the couple walked through the Hall of Mirrors, the official Royal Family Twitter account reminded us they were following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who danced along the same floor during their 1855 stay in France when a ball was held at Versailles in their honour.
There was also a reminder of more difficult regal times at the chateau. Edward, a real tennis fan, was given a tour of the famous Salle de Jeu de Paume where Louis XVI got a major hint that his country was far from happy with his rule in June 1789. Just weeks later, the French Revolution had begun. There was another potential sting in the tail for Edward when he visited Notre Dame de Grand Champ school in Versailles with Sophie. While the countess met pupils, her husband toured the school’s beehives.
The Countess of Wessex began day two in Paris with a breakfast meeting for 100WF, the global network of finance experts focused on empowering women in the workplace. Sophie is an ambassador for their Next Generation Initiative. Meanwhile, the Earl of Wessex was back on the real tennis courts, this time at the Chateau de Fontainebleau, for a game in support of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. Sophie joined him at the Chateau later for a tour.
Day two also saw the royal couple visit the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance in Paris where they met French Olympic and Paralympic athletes in training. As well as the serious business of hearing how top sports stars prepare for the biggest competitions in the world, they also did what needs to be done on all royal tours and got busy with the archery bows. We all needed those pictures.
The evening saw the couple attend a dinner given by the UK Ambassador for France in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award Foundation, where both Sophie and Edward are trustees. It gave the royal visitors a chance to meet some of those taking part in the scheme – there are around 1.3 million young people involved around the world in over 130 countries.
There was just time for a little bit more culture as the trip wound to an end. The Countess of Wessex toured the ‘’Impressionists in London’’ exhibition currently on at the Petit Palais in Paris, co-curated by the Tate and featuring works by artists who ended up in exile in England following the turbulence of the Franco Prussian war of 1870.
The successful trip to France comes just days after the Earl and Countess of Wessex visited the Republic of Ireland. The couple has a busy agenda next week as they head off on another three-day visit to Europe, this time taking in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.