LONDON – Indignant British veterans complained Wednesday because Queen Elizabeth II has been left off the guest list for next week's ceremonies to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France.
Britain played a key role in the Normandy naval landings, which accelerated the liberation of Europe from Germany. Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be there for the anniversary ceremonies — as will President Barack Obama.
But the queen, Britain's head of state, apparently won't be.
Neither she, nor any member of the royal family was invited to attend the ceremony at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach on June 6, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.
The dispute seems to have taken French officials somewhat by surprise. They insist the monarch was welcome at the ceremony and blamed the British government for mistakes in the handling of what they called a "Franco-American" ceremony.
"It is not up to France to determine the British representation," French government spokesman Luc Chatel said. "There will be other 6ths of June."
Reaction to the omission of the queen has been fast and furious.
"I'm really upset by it," said Brian Swift, 83, a former royal engineer and D-Day veteran who is going to next week's ceremony. "It's a great shame. She likes being with her veterans and we like having her there."
The royal family served as a rallying point during the war and the queen, as a young princess, served briefly in the women's Auxiliary Territorial Service.
The dispute reinforces the view held by many Britons that the French do not fully appreciate the role Britain played in ousting the Nazis. Some bloggers said they should let the French fend for themselves the next time their country is invaded.
The queen was a key figure at the last major ceremony in 2004, when the monarch appeared along with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles.
"I'm sure she's very hurt," said Ingrid Seward, the editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine. "She is the supreme head of the armed forces, so obviously you would expect her to be there."
The absence of a personal invitation is baffling to royal watchers, who say the queen is known to enjoy a warm relationship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the host of the event.
Britain's tabloid newspapers reacted with outrage at the news. Britain's Daily Mail describes the omission of the queen as an insult to thousands of soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth countries who died in the invasion. The idea grates on soldiers who feel as if the invasion is often portrayed as an entirely American affair, wrote Daily Mail columnist Robert Hardman.
"The British? The Canadians? The rest of the Commonwealth? The Poles? Just take a seat at the back somewhere please, don't bother President Nicolas Sarkozy while he's whispering sweet nothings to President Barack Obama," Hardman wrote.
"After months of dithering and muddle, it has been confirmed that only the heads of state of France and America will be marking D-Day on the beaches where it all happened. The head of state of Britain and Canada — who happens to be the same person — will not," Hardman wrote.
Several other anniversary events are planned on the days before and after the June 6 anniversary, including commemorations at British grave sites around the area.
D-Day veteran John Painter, 84, who is cycling through Normandy to raise money for soldiers injured in current conflicts, said the royals have been very supportive of the military. He told Britain's Press Association that the queen would be missed.
"Their absence will of course be noted," he said.