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Queen Carla

Clearly she felt it was time to cover up for the Royals. Here, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy all glammed up in Dior at the State Dinner at Windsor Castle.

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LONDON ­— Clearly she felt it was time to cover up for the Royals. As racy photos of her were splashed all over the British tabloids and magazines, French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy toned things way down Wednesday as she and her husband, President Nicholas Sarkozy, landed here for a 36-hour charm exercise. And Bruni-Sarkozy played it by the rules — wearing flats so she didn't tower over her diminutive husband; going even a bit dowdy in a gray midcalf-length belted dress by Dior to meet Camilla and the Queen, and borrowing a page from Jackie O with a matching pillbox hat. As she walked with Prince Philip and rode in a gilded carriage through the cobblestoned streets, Cinderella Carla, even a demure one, brought a much-needed shot of glamour to the frumpy Windsors. 

Talk about a contrast.

As Carla Bruni-Sarkozy went through her official duties as French first lady here Wednesday, even the most ardent Brit must have been wondering what happened in the chic stakes. Bruni-Sarkozy may have landed at Heathrow wearing a gray Christian Dior calf-length dress and Dior's new Babe handbag, which made the former model look more Ma'am than Madame, but the second she stood beside Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall — and later, Queen Elizabeth II — it became clear that, even when they're trying to be sedate, French chic is au naturel.

And that was what she was all over the British tabloids and in British GQ, as the Brits greeted her in their inimitable way. But all that seemed to fade away the second Bruni-Sarkozy and her husband, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, stepped off the plane, where they were greeted by Prince Charles and Camilla (in some strange feathered hat) and then whisked off to Windsor.

The day was a blur of official appointments — including lunch with the Queen, a visit to Westminster Abbey, and an address by Sarkozy to both houses of Parliament.

For lunch, Bruni-Sarkozy wore a ribbed wool Ottoman gray suit, and for her visit to the houses of Parliament, she wore a light gray wool jersey dress with a navy wool coat.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Queen gave Sarkozy the title of Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, an honor previously given to other world leaders.
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