French President Emanuel Macron is facing down furious reactions to his decision to fly flags at half-mast in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty died on Thursday, September 8, at Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The monarch’s passing sparked an international outpouring of tributes and mourning, with Macron issuing a touching message to Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr Macron broke from official protocol to issue his tribute to the monarch, and praised her “wisdom and empathy”.
He spoke in front of the Élysée Palace in Paris, with French and EU flags as well as the Union Jack on display.
Britain’s flag is only on display at Mr Macron’s official resident when a high-level dignitary from the UK is present.
The President also said on Twitter: “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was the Queen.
“Elizabeth II mastered our language, loved our culture and touched our hearts. From her coronation on, she knew and spoke with all of our presidents.
“No other country had the privilege of welcoming her as many times as we did.”
The French President has also ordered flags on all public buildings, including the Elysée Palace, to fly at half-mast from Friday until Her Majesty’s funeral.
However, the order has prompted rebellion from left wing mayors in France, including Yann Galut, former Parti socialiste member and mayor of Bourges.
Mr Galut said: “This request seems incredible to me. I respect the sorrow of our English friends but I will not put up the French flag [at half mast] over the municipal buildings of Bourges.”
He added later on France 3 television: “We are a republican country. Why should I pay tribute to a foreign monarch?”
In an interview with The Connexion, the Mayor of Bourges said that the order from Mr Macron “is disproportionate” and “too much”.
Mr Galut said lowering the flag must be saved for events that have an impact on the French Republic and its people, and added the last times the mairie did so was for the death of former French president Jacques Chirac and of Samuel Paty, a teacher decapitated for having shown drawings of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.
However, he added he would have obeyed a notice ordering his mairie to lower the flag in the case of a terrorist attack in London, adding that this was in fact the case after the 2004 attacks in Spain.
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Patrick Proisy, left-wing La France Insoumise mayor of Faches-Thumesnil on the Belgian border, also refused to fly the French flag at half mast for the Queen.
He said: “How could it be logical to put half-mast flags on our schools which all carry the motto: liberty, equality, fraternity.
“No concept is further from equality than that of monarchy.”
France had rejected “the principle that being born in the right family gives you special blood which puts you above others”, he added.
Alexis Corbière, a top MP in the Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Unbowed France party, tweeted in English: “Too much is too much.”
“The way almost all French television channels have been turned into a sort of royal celebrity magazine … is starting to look grotesque.”
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Conservatives slammed the recalcitrant mayors, with Renaud Muselier, the chairman of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, saying: “She was an exceptional personality.
“It’s a friendly country. They are Europeans even if they have left the EU.”
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally wrote in a tribute to the monarch: “We thought of her as immortal.
“Elizabeth II will remain one of the most emblematic and loved figures in the history of her country and our continent.”
It comes as Mr Macron is set to be one of many world leaders to attend Her Majesty’s funeral on September 19.
It had been reported that leaked Government guidance requested leaders travelling to London to abandon their official cars and arrive by shuttle bus.
However, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson has since confirmed that the UK Government, rather than Buckingham Palace, was in control of the logistical arrangements.
Responding to questions about how Mr Biden might attend the event, the spokesperson added: “I think that would be a question for the US and how they prefer the President to travel.
“I would say that clearly arrangements for leaders, including how they travel, will vary depending on individual circumstances. And the guidance and information provided is guidance.”