Friday, June 06, 2014

Hip-Hip Hooray!!

Why are the French so obsessed with our Royal Family?

Except in Quebec, of course.
"If you head over to France for your summer holidays, you'd be forgiven for assuming they care not one jot for royals - particularly those from British shores. But for a people which rabbits on about republicanism as if they invented the thing, the French are obsessed with royalty - and, most notably, ours."
"Magazines like Gala and Paris Match burst forth with pretty much weekly bulletins on not only William and Kate, but also Harry and Cressida - and, unless I'm much mistaken, the 20-year-old go-go dancer who is said to have replaced Cressida. The Queen is revered sufficiently to suggest that, were she to emulate her predecessor Edward III and claim the throne of France, there'd be a decent vote in favour."
"You may, therefore, imagine the effervescence gripping the nation right now as HMQ arrives for her fifth state visit to France, to tie in with the 70th-anniversary of D-Day. There have naturally been problems. Traffic anarchy generated by the royal visit to the Arc-de-Triomphe and tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Thursday afternoon was bound to annoy many Parisians. (Others retorted by telling them to belt up: if you live in Paris, get used to it.)"
"Far more important has been the "psychodrama of the hats". On discovering that the roof of the presidential Citroën DS5 was unlikely to be high enough to accommodate both the Queen and her hat, alarmed French protocol chaps sought an alternative. Dismissing the suggestion of a people carrier ("For the Queen??"), they bagged a Renault VelSatis which, though not very good at motoring, will allow the Queen to sit up straight, be-hatted. It will also be an interesting change from the new Diamond Jubilee state coach she used to get to the opening of Parliament - underlining many of the essential differences between a monarchy and a republic."
"...when the Queen joins 19 other heads of state in Normandy - and back in Paris on Saturday, when she visits the Flower Market on the Ile-de-la-Cité. Henceforth, the market will be known as Le Marché Aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II;"
"The welcome extended to the Queen isn't simply that accorded to a celebrity, though certain French commentators claim there's little difference. Nor is the interest only ironic, as smarter folk like to pretend. Whatever these people say, it's obvious that the Queen, especially, has real status in France. Of course, she has entertainment value but she's also an embodiment of so many of the things which the French admire in the British - the spirit of "fair-play" (for which there's no French word), restraint, elegance and resolution under stress and a frankly outrageous taste in headgear."
"...somehow, her very presence and bearing suggests that Britain is a country worthy of respect. Certainly - listen up, British republicans - she generates a warmth and fascination within France which is experienced by no other nation. It goes without saying that the British also exasperate the French, as vice versa. But it's the exasperation of close-ish relatives. As the Queen herself has said in the past, we may drive on different sides of the road, but we're going in the same direction.

Vitally, this time, the Queen is a living link with the past being commemorated. France's current ambassador to the UK, Bernard Emié, put it best: "With Queen Elizabeth II, we meet our own history, but also our liberty. For it's to her people, to her father George VI, to the man who became her prime-minister, Winston Churchill that we owe the welcome extended to General de Gaulle and the Free French in London - and then, with the Allies, the liberation of France."
Same goes for the Yanks.

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