When Prince William and Princess Kate cross the channel for a two-day trip to Paris later this month, there will be no public visit to the places associated with the last days of William’s mother, Princess Diana.
Diana died in the city after a car crash almost 20 years ago. And while the late Princess will undoubtedly be on William’s mind over the two days, the visit, which kicks off on March 17, is more about shaking hands and building relationships rather than remembrance. William and Kate will use their so-called “soft” power to help their country’s agenda for the here and now.
The royal couple has been sent to the French capital at the suggestion of the British Foreign Office to cement ties between Britain and France. This comes just as the country is preparing to leave the European Union after last summer’s Brexit vote. They are following the Paris tour with one to Germany and Poland this July with a similar goal in mind.
Though the trip is focused on Britain’s present, the references to Diana are unavoidable. She visited the city in the years before her death, too. When Princess Diana visited Paris in 1994, she lit up Versailles, wowing often hard-to-please French fashion insiders, Eleri Lynn, the curator of the new exhibition Diana: A Fashion Story at Kensington Palace told PEOPLE.
“[She] was really well received,” Lynn says. “The couturier Pierre Cardin was at the event and said ‘We are at Versailles, the home of the Sun King, and now we have the Sun Princess of Versailles.’ Diana was a very proud ambassador of British fashion.”
This month, Kate will no doubt follow in her footsteps and fly the British fashion flag as well. There will be plenty of opportunity to do so, as one of the trip’s key events is a black tie dinner at the British ambassador’s residence.
They will also underscore the solidarity that Britain and the rest of the world felt for France as it was shaken by terrorist attacks in November 2015 in Paris, at the Bataclan theater, several Parisian restaurants, and at Stade de France stadium just north of the city, and in July 2016 in Nice, in the South of France. William and Kate are set to visit with victims and first responders from those attacks during their visit. Just a few days after the attacks in 2015, William attended the England vs. France soccer game at Wembley Stadium in London and sang the French national anthem in solidarity with the country.
Also on the schedule is a reception for young French leaders. The visit will end with the couple in the stands to watch France play England at rugby at the Stade de France on March 18.