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Speaker shows French Ambassador letter from King Louis XIV to Parliament

22 May 2023

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A letter dating back to 1647 from a nine-year-old King Louis XIV was shown to France’s ambassador to the UK by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle showed Her Excellency Hélène Duchêne the missive from Fontainebleau to the Houses of Parliament during a courtesy meeting in Speaker’s House.

In the letter, Louis XIV informed the British authorities that he had recalled Monsieur de Bellievre, the French ambassador to England – and had appointed his seven-year-old brother Philippe I, Duke of Orleans, to the role instead.

Sir Lindsay said the 376-year-old note, which was retrieved from the Parliamentary Archives, ‘just shows the quirks of history’.

In 1647, England was in the middle of the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) and King Charles I, who was married to a French princess, had been captured at the start of the year before escaping in November in a failed attempt to get to France.

During their meeting, Mr Speaker also showed Madame Duchêne two historic photos from the archives, including one of French President Auriol addressing both Houses of Parliament in the Royal Gallery in 1950.

The other image featured Harry Hylton-Foster, Speaker of the House of Commons, welcoming President Charles de Gaulle before he gave a speech in Westminster Hall in 1960.

Sir Lindsay arranged the meeting with Madame Duchêne as part of his Speaker-led UK parliamentary diplomacy to establish enduring ties with countries and parliamentarians.