Feuding symbols of old and new France in court of King Jacques

Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique de Villepin were once, supposedly, brothers in arms at the court of King Jacques.

Supposedly. In fact, the two men detested and envied each other from first sight. Although both were devoted Gaullists, and both sworn followers of Jacques Chirac, everything else separated them. They are caricature products of two allied but opposed worlds: the traditional, aloof French ruling class and the rising "new France" of smart lawyers, enterprise and the media. Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is a tall, elegant and patrician poet from a high bourgeois French family. Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarkozy de Nagy-Bocsa is a short, nervy product of part-Jewish, part-Hungarian family with lots of "new money" friends but no fortune of its own.

Villepin is a classic product of the administrative-political class. He went to the École Nationale d'Administration finishing school, served as diplomat and attached himself to President Jacques Chirac as his chief of staff. He became foreign minister, interior minister and prime minister without ever standing for election.

Sarkozy trained as a lawyer and in his mid-20s started in politics at the grassroots (admittedly lush grassroots) as mayor of the wealthy Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. He never went to the elite grandes écoles or ENA. He rose with Chirac but split with him, twice.

Villepin calls Sarkozy le nain or "the dwarf". He regards him as a frenetic, Americophile threat to the French way of doing things and France's role as a crucial maverick balance to the overweening power of Washington. Sarkozy and others say privately that Villepin is "mad": a man with enormous pretensions but no political judgement; a Charles de Gaulle without the guts or talent; a man convinced that he incarnates "La France".

As the Chirac era drew to its close in 2003-4, Sarkozy propelled himself – brutally at times – to the forefront of likely centre-right successors. Chirac, still not convinced his own career was over, promoted and promoted and promoted Villepin to try to block Sarkozy's way. It was then that Villepin was accused of joining a plot to smear Sarkozy as financially corrupt. He has now been acquitted. When Sarkozy won the presidency in 2007, it seemed he had driven a stake through the heart of his detested fraternal rival.

Yesterday, though, Villepin awoke from the political dead.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map