King Charles III of Britain has postponed a visit to France that was scheduled for next week because of strikes and protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension overhaul, officials in both countries said on Friday, an embarrassing blow to the French leader.
The visit by King Charles and the queen consort, Camilla, who were scheduled to arrive in Paris on Sunday before heading to Germany on Wednesday, was particularly ill-timed for Mr. Macron in light of the widespread fury over his plan to raise the legal retirement age to 64 from 62.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Mr. Macron said that the decision was dictated by “common sense and friendship” and that it would have been a mistake “to do a state visit in the middle of demonstrations.”
A British government representative said that the decision had been taken “with the consent of all parties, after the president of France asked the British government to postpone the visit.”
Mr. Macron said the two countries would work on organizing a new visit in the early summer, and a spokeswoman for the German government said the royal visit to Germany would continue as planned.
That Charles had chosen France as his first overseas destination as king had highlighted Britain’s desire to mend the relationship with its European neighbor after years of fractured ties. The visit had been scheduled to occur only weeks after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain met with Mr. Macron in Paris during a tête-à-tête that sounded like a reconciliation.
But the optics of the royal trip were poor for Mr. Macron, who has long been described by his critics as a monarchical ruler himself, and the decision to postpone underscored the depth of anger in the country and the difficulty he will probably have in moving past it.
“What would have been objectionable, both for the British people and for ourselves, would have been to try and go ahead with it as if nothing were happening,” Mr. Macron said. To do so, he added, could have prompted “incidents.”
A state banquet that the French president was supposed to host for the king at the Château de Versailles, the former residence of kings and queens just outside Paris, felt particularly discordant at a time when thousands of protesters were complaining that their president was out of touch.
The French leader had pushed through the pension overhaul without a full vote in Parliament last week, setting off a no-confidence vote on Monday that Mr. Macron’s government barely survived. More than one million people took to the streets in France on Thursday for a nationwide day of strikes and protests.
A statement from the French presidency cited a new day of strikes and protests expected on Tuesday — right during the king’s visit — as the main reason for the postponement, after an outpouring of anger on Thursday that was marked in some cities by violent and chaotic clashes with the police.
That fueled concerns that French security forces would be stretched too thin to secure the king’s trip while also preventing the vandalism and mayhem that has marred some of the pension protests over the past week.
Mr. Macron’s political opposition had pounced on the visit as proof that he was so aloof that he would rather dine with a foreign monarch than heed their concerns.
Opponents welcomed news of the postponement, and some reacted with glee. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the influential leftist leader, quipped on Twitter that “the meeting of kings at Versailles” had been “dispersed by popular censure.”
The logistics of the visit had also become increasingly precarious. The king and Camilla were scheduled to take a train down to the southwestern city of Bordeaux on Tuesday, right in the middle of what is expected to be a widely followed transportation strike.
There, the king was scheduled to inaugurate a new British Consulate, see the devastation caused by wildfires over the summer and tour an organic vineyard.
But Bordeaux, like other French cities, has been rattled by the angry demonstrations against Mr. Macron’s pension overhaul. Protesters set a door at the town hall on fire on Thursday night, and some activists had already vowed to disrupt the king’s visit.
Mathieu Obry, a representative for the C.G.T., France’s second-largest labor union, in Bordeaux, said in an interview before the visit was canceled that “we have nothing against Charles,” but that protesters intended to block a tramway that the king was supposed to ride.
“We have a democratically elected president who thinks he is a monarch,” Mr. Obry said. “Our own monarch should listen to his people.”
In Paris, the royal visit would have included a ceremony at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, an address to the French Parliament and an opening of a painting exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay.
It was not immediately clear when the French authorities decided that the wisest course of action would be to postpone the king’s visit. Hours before the announcement, Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, spoke in assuring tones on the CNews television channel, saying that security for the royal visit would not be an issue, with 4,000 police officers deployed for the king’s trip.
“We will obviously be ready to welcome him in excellent conditions,” Mr. Darmanin had said.
Sandrine Rousseau, a Green lawmaker who had been highly critical of the king’s visit, said the postponement was “respectful of the social movement” gripping France.
“It was outlandish to do this visit right in the midst of a social conflict of historic proportions — to go eat in Versailles and walk down the Champs-Élysées,” Ms. Rousseau told the BFMTV news channel.
Even opponents of Mr. Macron who were in favor of his pension overhaul said postponing the royal visit was humiliating.
“What an image for our country, to not even be able to guarantee a head of State’s security,” Éric Ciotti, the head of the mainstream conservative Republican party, wrote on Twitter.
Reporting was contributed by Constant Méheut from Paris, Megan Specia and Mark Landler from London, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.