UK relationship with France to continue after Brexit, says prince

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Media captionPrince William delivered a message to France from the Queen

The UK's relationship with France will continue despite the vote to leave the EU, Prince William has said.

Speaking at the start of a two-day official visit to Paris with the Duchess of Cambridge, the prince said friendship and co-operation "would not change".

The royal couple's trip began at the Elysee Palace, where they met French President Francois Hollande.

During the visit they will also meet survivors of recent terror attacks.

The trip comes after Prince William faced a media backlash for missing a Commonwealth celebration to take a skiing holiday with friends.

It is the duke's first official visit to the city where his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash in 1997.

He was 15 and his brother Prince Harry was 12 when she died.

Prince William has faced criticism from some newspapers after a video emerged of him dancing and in a DJ booth during a trip to Verbier.

It led to questions over his work ethic after he missed a Commonwealth event with the Queen to take the holiday.

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Image caption The royal couple were guests of honour at a dinner at the British Embassy

On Friday evening, the royal couple attended a dinner hosted by the UK's ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn.

Among the guests were French actors Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno, and British actor Dame Kristin Scott Thomas.

The prince told guests: "So much of our countries' histories, culture and language are intertwined.

"Those ties of neighbours which run through our history are as powerful today as they have ever been."

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Image caption Among those attending a dinner at the British Embassy were actors Audrey Tautou (L), Dame Kristin Scott Thomas and Jean Reno

He added: "I have been reminded over the last few years, as Catherine and I have attended commemorations of the two world wars, how much we have experienced together and have stood together in moments of great crisis."

The duke and duchess met young French people, including athletes, musicians and business entrepreneurs, while there was a performance from singer Elodie Frege.

The duke and duchess's itinerary includes Saturday's Six Nations rugby match between France and Wales.

The royal couple will also meet survivors of the terror attacks in Paris and Nice.

Eighty-six people died after a lorry ploughed into a crowd in the southern French city in July last year, while 90 people were killed by gunmen at the Bataclan music venue in Paris in November 2015.

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Image caption The duke and duchess met French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris

The couple have travelled without their children, three-year-old George and one-year-old Charlotte.

Kensington Palace said the trip was at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

A spokeswoman for the FCO said: "Royal visits play a very important role in the United Kingdom's bilateral diplomacy.

"Whilst every royal visit is unique, each visit is designed to support foreign policy objectives and promote closer ties across a range of areas, for example cultural, economic or political, between the UK and the host country."

The trip comes a day after the Queen gave Royal Assent to the Brexit bill, which will allow the prime minister to notify Brussels that the UK is leaving the EU.

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Media captionThe duke and duchess were toasted with Guinness by the Irish Guards after a St Patrick's Day parade

French political magazine Le Point said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were "the weapon of glamour against a hard Brexit" and said the visit was an attempt "to mitigate" the effect of Brexit on Europe.

Before leaving London for France, the duke and duchess attended the Irish Guards' traditional St Patrick's Day parade at their barracks in west London.

The duchess presented sprigs of shamrock to the officers, before having lunch with the soldiers and their families, where the royal couple were given pints of Guinness.

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