The view from France: pride and shame in equal measure

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Carla was perfect. Sarko was, despite his best efforts, Sarko. That was the considered view of the French press on the presidential state visit to Britain.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who has only been in the business of politics and state flummery for six weeks, performed admirably, the French media concluded. Appropriately, given the Royal Family's sporting tastes, Le Monde used a show-jumping image. "By common consent, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy had a clear round," the newspaper reported.

There was much admiration, especially, for her perfect curtsy, when first introduced to the Queen at Windsor; for her elegant but under-stated costumes; and her general air of modest calm and, simply, belonging.

The President did not fare quite so well. The centre-left newspaper Libération published a two-page spread chronicling his every physical tic and mis-step. For the occasion, the radical newspaper made itself an expert on royal protocol.

The cardinal rule, when talking to the Queen, Libération said, was that Her Majesty must always starts the conversation and Her Majesty must always change the subject.

Once inside the Royal carriage in Windsor, how did M. Sarkozy behave? "The French President was like a kid," the newspaper said. "He chatted and chatted to the Queen when he had been warned to shut up ... his auto-control system broke down."

The Libération reporter Antoine Guiral was deeply impressed by Windsor itself, it seems. "This is an eternal, kitsch England, which recalls Chez Mickey [presumably Disneyland], with its coloured streets, lined with Union flags and Tricolores.

"The village [sic] also recalls Lourdes, with its shops stuffed with unlikely souvenirs and images of the Royal Family."

Most French newspapers dwelled, more in tristesse than in anger, on the rudeness of several British tabloid newspapers in publishing an old (or rather young) nude photograph of Mme Bruni-Sarkozy. Despite the pictures, the first lady triumphed, the newspapers said.

The popular newspaper Le Parisien ran the headline, "Les Anglais conquis par Carla" (The English charmed by Carla).

"Bloody Nice! President Sarkozy is a lucky bloke!" the newspaper quoted Stuart, a 45-year-old builder as saying on the streets of Windsor (aka Royal-land).

Comparatively little attention was given in the French press to M. Sarkolzy's speech to both Houses of Parliament.

His promise to send more French troops to Afghanistan produced a furious reaction, however, among French parliamentarians. Some were annoyed that more French troops would be committed to the conflict. Others were annoyed that the news had been announced by the French President to the British Parliament.