This weekend, many Heads of State and Heads of Government were in Paris, France to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
On 10th November, dignitaries including Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco and Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg were invited by President Macron and Brigitte Macron to a dinner hosted in the Musée d’Orsay. Before the dinner, the guests had the opportunity to visit the “Picasso Bleu et Rose (Picasso, Blue, and Pink)” exhibition that was officially opened by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron last September.
Each 11th November, France’s presidential couple and many French dignitaries commemorate the end of World War One under the Arc de Triomphe where the Grave of the Unknown Soldier is located. This year, however, the ceremony was special as 72 foreign dignitaries were present to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that became official at 11 am on 11th November 1918.
Before the ceremony, President Macron and Brigitte Macron welcomed most of their guests one by one at the Elysée Palace. When everyone had arrived, they all left the Elysée Palace together in buses to drive to the Arc de Triomphe where the traditional ceremony would take place. 100 metres before the Arc de Triomphe, all the dignitaries – including the Princely Couple of Monaco, the Grand Ducal Couple of Luxembourg, King Felipe of Spain, King Mohammed VI and Crown Prince Moulay Hassan of Morocco – got out of the bus under the rain to walk to the Arc de Triomphe as a symbolic gesture. Only two Head of State didn’t participate in this part of the ceremony as President Trump and President Putin arrived by car.
The ceremony followed the traditional protocol of the usual service with President Macron reviewing the troops and honouring the French soldiers who died in 2018 before listening to the French anthem La Marseillaise. Afterwards, students from the Lycée International in Paris read letters from soldiers and their families about the end of the war in French, English, and Chinese. President Macron then made his speech, commemorating the lives lost during the war and speaking out against nationalism.
The final act of the ceremony was the lighting of the flame of the Grave of the Unknown Soldier by the President. It is a traditional gesture, but this year, the students who read the letters earlier all stood in a circle around the grave with their hands on the shoulder of the one next to them and the students closest to President Macron touching his shoulder. It was a symbolic gesture to show that it was not just the President honouring the Unknown Soldier and the soldiers who died during the war but everyone including the young generation.
After this final moving gesture, the dignitaries departed the Arc de Triomphe to go back to the Elysée Palace where they attended an official lunch hosted by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron.
While some of the dignitaries such as Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and King Felipe left after the lunch, most of them stayed to attend a Forum of Peace.