French D-Day village mayor takes case to Prince Charles
A French mayor who feels Prince Charles has overlooked his village in the D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations turned up at his London residence on Wednesday to voice his disappointment directly.
Olivier Paz, the mayor of Merville-Franceville on the Normandy coast of northern France, met with the heir to the British throne's aides at Clarence House for a cup of tea and a half-hour chat.
Charles, who is currently touring Canada, is visiting Normandy on June 5 and 6 but Merville is not -- and never was, according to his office -- on his schedule of visits.
Paz said it was a warm meeting which had sowed the seeds for future visits.
"We have lost this little battle but there will be positive benefits for us," he told AFP.
He said trying to get Charles to change his schedule had never been on the cards.
But Paz said he hoped to welcome Charles to Merville within the next two years for the opening of a new museum building.
"It's our next objective," he said.
"I said it would really mean a lot to us if he could come when the veterans are still around, because in 10 years' time it won't have the same significance."
He gave Charles's staff a letter signed by more than a thousand people expressing disappointment that he would not be visiting the village, which has 2,000 inhabitants.
The Merville Gun Battery coastal fortification was used as part of the Nazi German occupation's Atlantic Wall, designed to prevent against an Allied invasion.
British paratroopers captured the position on June 6, 1944 as part of the Normandy landings.
Paz claimed Merville was included in a "pre-programme" put together by the organisers of June 5 events, but the final programme was shortened due to Charles' official engagements limiting his time.
Charles's aides made the effort to speak in French and were "very warm and very concerned that there should be no misunderstanding", Paz said.
They relayed a message from the prince saying he was sorry that he could not visit, he added.
A Clarence House spokeswoman said the meeting was cordial, without commenting on the content of the talks.
She reaffirmed that a visit to Merville had "never been part of the official programme" for Charles' engagements on June 5 and 6, and that Paz was among 10 or so mayors invited to a lunch hosted by The Parachute Regiment.
© 2014 AFP