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Prince Charles to attend D-Day ceremony

/ Source: The Associated Press

Prince Charles will attend this week's 65th-anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings, royal officials said Tuesday, in an attempt to defuse a cross-Channel spat over France's alleged failure to invite his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Charles' office announced he would attend, alongside President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, after days of outrage by British veterans and commentators over the omission of the queen, who is Britain's head of state and supreme commander of its armed forces.

"The Prince of Wales will be attending the commemorations on D-Day in Normandy on the invitation of President Sarkozy," a spokesman said on condition of anonymity in line with palace policy.

The presence of a senior royal should soothe some ruffled feathers in Britain, which lost thousands of troops helping to free France from the Nazis. But some observers said the insult remained.

"Obviously the queen couldn't go now," said Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. "It's still an insult she wasn't invited."

'Typical Gallic ingratitude'
The mass-market Daily Mail newspaper had accused France of "typical Gallic ingratitude," declaring in an editorial that the "D-Day shambles is a betrayal of our history."

The most senior British representative at the ceremony to commemorate the Normandy landings was to have been Prime Minister Gordon Brown rather than the queen, who served in uniform during World War II with the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.

France denied it had meant to snub the queen, and said it was up to Britain to decide whom to send.

But the British government said Sarkozy had invited Brown personally, and Buckingham Palace said that until Sarkozy contacted Charles through the French Embassy in London, no member of the royal family had received an invitation to the ceremony.

The palace denied the queen was offended, however.

"We would like to reiterate that we have never expressed any sense of anger or frustration at all, and are content with all the arrangements that are planned," a spokeswoman said.

The June 6, 1944, landings saw more than 150,000 Allied troops — primarily American, British and Canadian — pour on to the beaches of occupied France. Between 2,500 and 5,000 Allied troops died that day, a strategic turning point in the war.

The French say Saturday's ceremony is intended primarily as a U.S.-French event, rather than a full-blown commemoration of the Allied effort like those held on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, which the queen did attend.

It will be held at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, scene of some of the heaviest D-Day fighting.

'Turned into a circus'
Even the White House was drawn in to the spat. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that Obama wanted the queen to be there, and the U.S. was "working with those involved to see that it happens."

The Royal British Legion, Britain's chief veterans' organization, said it was "absolutely delighted" the prince would be attending.

But not everyone was happy with the resolution. Some veterans' representatives point out that, with most D-Day survivors in their 80s, this will be one of the last major anniversaries they are able to attend.

"All the focus will be on the politicians, not the veterans. It's too late," said Eddie Slater, national chairman of Britain's Normandy Veterans Association.

"We go across for a pilgrimage. It's been turned into a circus."