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Why the French are fascinated by Elizabeth II and the British monarchy

The emotion aroused in France by the disappearance of Elizabeth II testifies to the attachment, even the nostalgia, of the French for the monarchy, 229 years after the beheading of Louis XVI.

On January 21, 1793, the French individuals beheaded King Louis XVI to cheers. Two centuries later, whereas the announcement of the dying of Queen Elizabeth II generated practically 1834 tweets per second on Twitter, France appears as bereaved as the UK. As if Republican France had simply misplaced an essential determine in its historical past.

The declarations of the President of the Republic and his Prime Minister have solely maintained this paradox of a deeply republican individuals fascinated by topped heads. “Tonight, the French are additionally in mourning,” stated Elisabeth Borne, September 8, the day of the dying of the queen. “His dying leaves us with a sense of vacancy,” added Emmanuel Macron. In response to a examine performed by the Appinio firm, 60% of French individuals say they’re affected by the disappearance of Elizabeth II.

Similar story with artists. But the son of Sicilian immigrants, the singer Calogero took over Thursday night throughout a live performance some notes of God Save The Queen. Behind him, a large display screen broadcast the picture of a flag of the UK. “The dying of Queen Elizabeth II is an immense ache for me and for the world”, reacted for her half on Twitter actress Brigitte Bardot. “Sorrow to study of the dying of our Queen…”, also tweeted Arielle Dombasle. Since childhood now we have recognized that there’s a kingdom there, the UK and its revered Queen of England…”

Flags at half mast?

“We beloved her a lot”, proclaimed The Parisian after the Queen’s dying. A entrance web page that echoes that of the July/August 2021 difficulty of the Evaluate of two worlds, which headlined: “The British mannequin, the sacred we miss”. In an article printed within the assessment, Stéphane Bern thought of that the UK and Monaco have been “our two substitute monarchies”. “The French have a style for the prince, however they search it overseas”, stated Normal de Gaulle.

Along with the Eiffel Tower, which went out on the night of the Queen’s dying, the flags of official buildings have been at half mast final Friday, an act reserved for particular circumstances resembling nationwide mourning or a tribute. Emmanuel Macron, who needs to affiliate the French with the mourning of the British, positioned a British flag on the steps of the Elysée. The flags might be at half mast once more on Monday, September 19, for the funeral of Elizabeth II.

This determination will not be unanimous. Friday, the mayor of Faches-Thumesnil (North), Patrick Prois, refused to observe the directions of the president. “Is that this performed for all heads of state who die? Does our Republic give desire to a monarch, head of a Church?”, he questioned. An indignation shared by Yann Galutthe mayor of Bourges (Cher): “I respect the ache of our English mates however I can’t put the French flags on the pediment of municipal buildings.”

A ardour that goes again a good distance

This French ardour for Elizabeth II, and extra broadly for the British crown, goes again a good distance. An official go to by Queen Victoria to the Château d’Eu in Normandy in 1855, forty years after the defeat at Waterloo, had aroused “extraordinary well-liked enthusiasm”, recollects Philippe Chassaigne, professor of up to date historical past at Bordeaux-Montaigne College. and specialist in Nice Britain. “The French had been very delicate [au fait] that the queen and her eldest son additionally go to the Invalides to assemble in entrance of the tomb of Napoleon I.”

Relations between the 2 international locations have been cast extra exactly in the beginning of the twentieth century. King Edward VII visited France in 1903, 5 years after the Fashoda Disaster, a diplomatic incident that almost led to struggle between the 2 international locations. “The reception of the Parisian inhabitants is initially very chilly”, notes the historian. “Then Edward VII, together with his good nature, his playful character, his simplicity, managed to show public opinion in his favour. It was after this go to that the method was put in place which might culminate in 1904 with the Entente Cordiale. “

In 1936, the abdication of Edward VIII to have the ability to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson additionally fascinated the French. “France didn’t perceive why the monarch couldn’t marry the girl he beloved. The general public was unaware of the spiritual and political obstacles to such a union”, provides Philippe Chassaigne. In 1938, George VI went to Paris to recall the diplomatic ties that united the UK to France whereas the worldwide state of affairs was tense within the East.

Ten years later, Princess Elizabeth II will not be but queen, however goes to France instead of her father. “The press talks concerning the ‘little princess’ in a paternalistic tone. She provides a speech in impeccable French. And when she leaves Paris, everybody shouts, ‘lengthy dwell the queen!’ when it’s not but!”, laughs Philippe Chassaigne. In 1957, Man Mollet, President of the Council, proposed becoming a member of the Commonwealth – however the proposal was refused by London.

In France, a republican monarchy

Since June 2, 1953, the day of the coronation of Elizabeth II, every royal occasion broadcast on French tv has met with immense viewers success. To attend the coronation, the entire of France was outfitted with tv. Thousands and thousands of French individuals can even observe Charles and Diana’s marriage ceremony on July 29, 1981, then Diana’s funeral on September 6, 1997, in entrance of their tv.

On April 29, 2011, 9 million French individuals adopted the marriage of William and Kate. In 2012, practically 4 million watched the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. On Could 19, 2018, 8.1 million French individuals attended the marriage of Harry and Meghan. On April 5, 2020, the Queen’s speech to provide braveness to Britons hit by the Covid pandemic attracted practically 2.5 million viewers. And on April 17, 2021, practically six million French individuals attended Prince Philip’s funeral.

This fascination is rooted not within the Queen’s Francophilia, however within the foundations of the Fifth Republic. The president has extra institutional prerogatives in France than another of his counterparts. “With the Fifth Republic, the president is a republican monarch. We modify monarchs each 5 or ten years”, analyzes Philippe Chassaigne. “Even when France is a republic, there may be this personalization of energy in a single individual. We will subsequently extra simply challenge ourselves on an actual monarch throughout the Channel.”

For the historian Jean Garrigues, in Level, this enthusiasm testifies to a “nostalgia for the monarchical determine”, which “is manifested by the periodic recourse to ‘transcendental’ authority figures or, a minimum of, to providential males.” France has a ardour for this determine of the providential hero, from Gambetta to Pierre Mendès-France by way of Clémenceau, Pétain and Normal de Gaulle. However Elizabeth II did nothing to tackle this position, particularly since she had not deliberate to change into queen.

Distorted picture of royalty

Yaël Goosz, political columnist for France Inter, sees in it the expression of a “individuals who remorse having beheaded the king”, “a repressed complicated vis-à-vis a vanished transcendence”: “Therefore the Republican splendor. The Elysée is a palace,” he insists. “If the British royal household is so well-liked in France, it’s exactly as a result of it embodies this symbolic energy able to bringing collectively a complete individuals and of which we really feel orphaned”, provides Stéphane Bern within the Evaluate of two worlds.

For a lot of commentators, this nostalgia is “consubstantial with the sentimental dimension possessed by the monarchy”, analyzes Frédéric Rouvillois in Le Figaro. In response to him, there may be additionally “a deeper attachment, which is as a result of very nature of the monarchy”: “The monarchical regime consists of two opposite rules: a incredible distance, which locations the monarch in a historic continuity, and a familiarity which permits the embodiment of energy in a household.”

For Charles-Eloi Vial, writer of varied works on the monarchy, this fascination refers extra to aignorance of the previous” and a “misunderstanding of the realities of the functioning of the previous monarchical programs [qu’à un] deficit of the embodiment of energy in our Republic”, he defined to the weblog Phrases of stories.

Nonetheless, the French are usually not completely fooled by the fairy story photographs of the British monarchy. In 2016, in accordance with a BVA survey. lower than one in 5 French individuals (17%) stated they have been in favor of the place of head of state being held by a king.

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