British State Visit to France, 1938

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were on their iconic State Visit to France on this day in 1938, 85 years ago, which the first and only State Visit of their Reign, cementing the Entente Cordiale on the eve of the Second World War. The visit was originally scheduled for June but had to be postponed following the death of the Queen’s mother.

The King and Queen left London from Victoria Station, traveling to Dover by train, crossing the channel by boat, and taking the train to Paris. Upon arrival, the royal couple were greeted by President and Madame Lebrun at the train, and then traveled to the Quai d’Orsay Palais in a magnificent procession through Paris. In the evening, the President and Madame Lebrun hosted a spectacular State Banquet in honour of the King and Queen (wearing her Crown) at the Élysée Palace.

The following day, the King and Queen went on a boat ride on the Seine to reception at the Hotel de Ville, where they signed a parchment record of their visit ahead of a Garden Party at the Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. In the evening, President and Madame Lebrun  joined King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (in the Oriental Circlet Tiara) for a Gala Performance at the Opéra Garnier. The Queen was attended by the Duchess of Northumberland (in the Strawberry Leaf Coronet) and Countess Spencer (wearing the Spencer Honeysuckle Tiara)

On Day 3, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth viewed a military exhibition, and then had lunch at the magnificent Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles which included a concert in the Palace Chapel. That evening,  the King and Queen (wearing the Greville Tiara and the Greville Festoon Necklace) attended a Banquet hosted by French Foreign Office in their honour at the Quai d’Orsay.

On their last day, the King and Queen unveiled a memorial to the Australian Imperial Forces who had died in France during World War I at Villers-Bretonneux. They both laid flowers on the memorial before their return to London.

Queen Elizabeth’s iconic ‘White Wardrobe’ was one of the most important aspects of the King and Queen’s visit to Paris. Due to the Countess of Strathmore’s death, the British Royal Court plunged into mourning, and Norman Hartnell created the iconic ‘White Wardrobe’ in less than three weeks, with crinoline-gowns inspired by Winterhalter portraits that marked a turning point in fashion. The gowns were taler worn by the Queen for a series of landmark portraits taken by Cecil Beaton at Buckingham Palace during the Second World War.


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