Paris, France, Mar 18 – Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate on Saturday told injured survivors of the 2015 Paris terror attacks they admired their courage, on the second day of a visit to France.
The couple met the survivors at the Invalides military hospital in Paris before viewing world-renowned Impressionist artworks by Claude Monet and Edgar Degas at the Musee d’Orsay.
They also watched France play Wales in a Six Nations rugby match at the Stade de France later in the day as the royal couple wrapped up their first official visit to the city where William’s mother Diana died in a car crash 20 years ago.
An incident at Paris’ Orly airport earlier Saturday, in which a radicalised man tried to grab the rifle of a female solider before he was shot dead, did not appear to affect the visit.
But it was a reminder that France remains on high alert for attacks. More than 230 people have been killed by jihadists since January 2015.
At the Invalides hospital, William and Kate were clearly touched by the plight of 25-year-old Jessica Bambal Akan, who was seriously injured in the deadliest attack to hit France, the coordinated shootings and suicide bombings in eastern Paris on November 13, 2015 that left 130 people dead.
The woman, who still needs to use a wheelchair as a result of her injuries, was celebrating her 24th birthday with three friends at the Belle Equipe bar when jihadist gunmen sprayed the terrace with bullets, hitting her in the leg, back and hip.
“We are all lucky to be alive,” she told the royals.
Noticing the pleated and patterned Chanel dress that Kate was wearing, she told her she was determined to pursue a career in fashion despite her injuries.
“I am ambitious, I am still ambitious. I need to live and to work. I want to show these men they cannot win,” she said.
A firefighter identified only as Kevin described how he was attending a concert at the Bataclan concert hall that night when he heard gunfire.
“They (the attackers) started shouting at the audience and opened fire,” he said.
“Anyone who shouted was shot, so I tried to be as quiet as possible.
– Brexit? No comment –
“I was hit twice in the leg but lay there and kept quiet.”
Ninety people were killed at the Bataclan.
William told the survivors, who are being treated at the hospital: “You are very brave, you should be proud of yourselves.”
Later the couple surprised tourists and art lovers at the Musee d’Orsay, the highly popular museum housed in a former railway station, by arriving for a visit that had not been announced to the public in advance.
William and Kate, who met while both studying history of art at university, were shown artworks including one of Monet’s iconic paintings of a fog-shrouded Houses of Parliament in London as the crowds snapped them on their phones.
They then moved on to the Trocadero building, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, where they watched a demonstration of rugby skills as part of an initiative to showcase Britain and France’s shared interests at a time when Britain is about to trigger the formal process of leaving the EU.
A young English boy at the event asked William what he thought of Brexit.
The prince, sticking to the protocol that British royals are not supposed to get involved in politics, replied with a smile: “I can’t answer that question, but good try.”
William pledged Friday that Britain will retain close links with France despite Brexit as they attended a star-studded dinner at the British embassy with film stars Jean Reno, Audrey Tautou and Kristin Scott-Thomas.
No official commemoration of Diana’s death was planned during the trip, which comes just months before the 20th anniversary on August 31.