President of France lays wreath at Grave of the Unknown Warrior
Wednesday, 26th March 2008
The President of France, M. Nicholas Sarkozy, and Mme. Sarkozy visited the Abbey on 26th March to lay a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior during their state visit to the UK.
The President and his wife were welcomed to the Abbey by the Dean, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall and members of Chapter and College. Following the wreath-laying ceremony and a short tour of the Abbey, the President signed the Abbey’s distinguished visitors’ book.
He went on to address a joint session of both houses of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster.
M. Sarkozy was elected President of France on 6th May last year after defeating the Socialist Party contender Ségolène Royal during the second round of the 2007 presidential election.
Before his presidency, he was leader of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) right-wing party. Under Jacques Chirac’s presidency, he served as the Minister of the Interior in Jean-Pierre Raffarin (UMP)’s first two governments, then was appointed Minister of Finances in Raffarin’s last government and again Minister of the Interior in Dominique de Villepin’s government.
M. Sarkozy was also president of the General Council of the Hauts-de-Seine department from 2004 to 2007 and mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine.
The President and Mme Sarkozy – the former model and singer Carla Bruni – were accompanied by a large media contingent, which flew in from France to cover the state visit.
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, welcomed the President and his wife, speaking in French:
It is a delight to welcome you both to Westminster Abbey as a significant part of your state visit to Her Majesty The Queen.
You come to Westminster Abbey, the House of God and the House of Kings, where God is worshipped every day and where many great men and women of the history of these islands are buried or memorialised.
Here William Duke of Normandy was crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066. His was the first in a long line of coronations including in 1953 that of Her Majesty The Queen.
Here every day thousands of people many from France are welcomed as visitors and pilgrims.
You come to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown warrior. His body was brought to the Abbey in 1920 from one of four battlefield cemeteries in northern France. He was given a state funeral. His presence reminds us always of the wars our nations fought together in the 20th century. We also have reminders in the Abbey of the wars between our nations in earlier centuries. They encourage us always to celebrate the cordial relations between our nations. May France and the United Kingdom continue to strive together as part of the European Union for peace and concord throughout the world.
Monsieur le President, I invite you to lay your wreath in honour of the unknown warrior.