Prince Charles' visit to France annoyed Thatcher: archives

30th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was annoyed by Prince Charles' plans to visit French military sites in 1980 as the country was not a "full member of NATO", newly released files showed Thursday.

Charles, the heir to the throne, was invited to visit France in July 1980 where it had been suggested he would see some French military establishments, according to the previously classified official British records.

Thatcher, notorious for her sharp tongue and uncompromising approach in the political arena, wanted to know why Charles would choose to visit the French military when the country was not a member of NATO military command.

"France is not a full member of NATO," Thatcher scribbled on an official letter dated April 15. "Why therefore this signal honour?

"Has Prince Charles visited European NATO forces?"

A week later the prime minister was informed by royal officials that Charles had not paid visits to any European NATO forces but had been to NATO headquarters in Brussels in the past.

Soon afterwards Thatcher, known as "The Iron Lady" during her time as Conservative prime minister from 1979 to 1990, dropped her resistance to the visit.

"The prime minister has agreed that President [Valery Giscard d'Estaing's] invitation can be accepted," a government memo said.

France rejoined NATO's military command last year, but at the time of the prince's visit the country was not part of the integrated command structure, having pulled out in 1966.

It had nevertheless remained a Western ally and contributed to several NATO missions notably in the Balkans and the current war in Afghanistan.

The British files were released by the country's national archives under a rule that requires most government records to be made public after 30 years.

© 2010 AFP

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