Mystery of President's holiday grips French press

President Jacques Chirac, a man known for his love of the exotic, spent his summer holiday in a small, rainy village in Quebec. Or did he? According to speculation in the French media, the President may have secretly absented himself from the picturesque village of North Hatley (population 773) for up to four days, for reasons which remain unclear.

The satirical television puppet show Les Guignols de l'Info suggests that the President sneaked away to have a face-lift, something for which Canada is noted. Other versions of the rumour, which was deliberately fanned yesterday by the far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, suggest that M. Chirac had more serious medical surgery and was out of action for several days.

The Elysée Palace has dismissed the speculation. It insists that M. Chirac and his wife, Bernadette, spent the period from 2 to 19 August at the Auberge Hatley, a £130-a-night hotel near Sherbrooke, 80 miles east of Montreal. But questions continue to be asked about M. Chirac's holidays, a subject which has led to controversy in the past.

The respected newspaper Le Monde ran an article on its front page yesterday headlined "The Mystery of North Hatley". The article said there were clear sightings of the presidential couple in the first week of their holidays, notably an unpleasant incident in which the Chiracs' poodle, Sumo, was attacked in the village by strays. Le Monde, quoting local journalists and officials, said there was much less evidence of M. and Mme Chirac's presence in the second week of their holiday.

The village mayor, Stephan Doré, has even spoken this week of the Chiracs "arriving on the 2nd of August and leaving on the 15th", four days earlier than officially announced.

Could this explain another mystery? Why did President Chirac - a man who is known for his ability to impose himself on events - fail to make any comment on the deaths of more than 12,000 elderly people in the heatwave that struck France in early August?

The political controversy over the failure of the French government to respond more quickly to the deaths was at its most intense during the period when M. Chirac is said to have gone missing. The President made no comment on the disaster until he returned to Paris.

Rumours circulating among the political classes in Paris include suggestions that M. Chirac had chosen to go on holiday in Quebec so that he could, in secrecy, have a face-lift or an operation on his vocal chords or thyroid glands. Les Guignols de L'Info ran a sequence in which a puppet of M. Chirac was shown pinning his cheeks behind his ears.

Mr Le Pen, the leader of the xenophobic National Front and a long-term enemy of M. Chirac, hinted strongly in a press interview yesterday that he thought the President was hiding a serious medical condition.

"I think he was not capable, physically or mentally, of speaking out for several days," M. Le Pen told Le Parisien.

He suggested that the next presidential election, which is not due before 2007, might be held as soon as next year.

News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup