March 2008

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, accompanied by Madame Carla Sarkozy, visited the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) yesterday afternoon in order to present Dame Ellen MacArthur with the Légion d’Honneur in recognition of her sailing achievements.

The party travelled to Greenwich from Savoy Pier in central London by Thames Clipper Aurora and, on arrival, were met by the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College, Mr Francis Plowden and Mr Duncan Wilson OBE, the Mayor of Greenwich, Cllr Sajid Jawaid, and Leader of Greenwich Council, Cllr Chris Roberts. 

The President met Dame Ellen MacAthur on Grand Square, where her boat, the BT Extreme 40 was displayed.

The party entered the Painted Hall where, in a short ceremony, the President presented Dame Ellen with the Légion d’Honneur stating “I am especially happy to meet you in this mythical place of Greenwich, landmark of time and space for all who sail the oceans, and to present you with the highest French distinction”.  

President Sarkozy had personally chosen to include a visit to the ORNC as part of his state visit and it was particularly apt that this ceremony took place at the ORNC which is where both Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Francis Drake received their Knighthoods, Sir Francis Chichester from The Queen in 1967 and Sir Francis Drake from Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.

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