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Tuesday 22 October 2019

Camilla overcomes French nerves

The Duchess of Cornwall rolled back the years by speaking French for the first time in half a century - and in public for the first time - on her maiden solo international engagement.

Camilla admitted she was "dreading" speaking publicly on the first of a two-day trip to Paris - the city where she spent six months studying French and French Literature at the Institut Britannique as a teenager in 1963.

But any nerves she may have harboured had evaporated in the balmy Paris sunshine by the time she came to deliver her speech, at the Emmaus charity workshop and community in Bougavil, in the east of the city.

The Duchess was using her visit to learn more about the origins of Emmaus, which was founded in France shortly after the Second World War when homelessness and poverty was an issue, particularly in large urban areas.

She was joined for the trip by three representatives from the charity's UK arm, which also helps use social enterprise to allow formerly homeless people make a life for themselves and help others.

Addressing the crowd, the royal said: "I have had the honour of visiting several Emmaus communities in England. I have found that each one offers companions the same opportunities - to rebuild their lives, regain their dignity and self-respect, and develop new skills.

The Duchess of Cornwall at St Pancras International Station boarding a Eurostar train to Paris. (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)
The Duchess of Cornwall at St Pancras International Station boarding a Eurostar train to Paris. (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)
The Duchess of Cornwall is greeted during a visit to the homeless charity
The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to the homeless charity Emmaus in Bougival in Paris
Camilla looks at some second hand china near Paris, France. (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)
The Duchess of Cornwall eats some cake as she visits Emmaus Bougival near Paris (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)
The Duchess of Cornwall makes a speech during her visit to the charity Emmaus

"But we still have much to learn from our French cousins and I have been enormously impressed by everything you have accomplished here."

In a disclaimer at the start of the speech, she said: "I hope you will forgive my rather rusty French." However, there was little problem with her pronunciation and delivery, those attending said afterwards. "I was so terrified. That really has taken years off my life," she said. "I'm just thankful it's over."

Earlier the second-hand shop - which helps contribute towards the Bouvigal community's multi-million euro annual turnover - was busy with bargain hunters as the Duchess explored the furniture, literature and jewellery sections.

Companions, who work and live within Emmaus communities, were eager to catch a glimpse of the Duchess, with one climbing into a skip full of wood to get a good vantage point. Another, Kahou Lazare, in a moment of spontaneity, joined the end of a line-up of dignitaries to bow to Camilla and shake her hand.

PA Media

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