Strasbourg to rule on no-name girl

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What's in a name? An awful lot if you ask Frenchman Gerard Guillot, who is the first person to bring a case before the European Court of Human Rights to gain the right to give his daughter the Christian name of his choice.

"It's absurd and intolerable," he said. "My daughter is 13 and for the past 18 years, I have been fighting for her Christian name to be accepted."

Ever since her birth his second daughter has officially had three dots as a first name. The trouble started a few hours after she was born on 7 April 1983 when he went to register her birth at the local town hall in the chic Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine.

He had rather unusually decided to call his daughter Fleur de Marie (Flower of Mary) after the heroine of Mysteres de Paris, a novel by the popular 19th-century writer Eugene Sue. But his suggestion was met with a categorical "Non" from the civic authorities.

At that time French law dictated that the only names which could be given to offspring were those which featured on the calendar of saints or those of characters from ancient history. Thus the likes of Pacome Medard Thecle or even Nabuchodonosor would have not posed a problem, but as no Fleur de Marie has ever been canonised, or has participated in the Trojan War, the name was a definite no-no. The lawchanged in January 1993 and French parents can now call their children what they like. However, the registrar still has the right to alert a public prosecutor if he feels the name is contrary to the child's interest.

"The registrar was just being narrow minded," claims Monsieur Guillot: "In thousands of other places Fleur de Marie would have posed no problem." Thus in 1984 he referred the affair to the French high court which refused to allow the use of "de" and suggested he simply called his daughter "Fleur-Marie".

But just as a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet, Fleur- Marie lacks sweetness to Monsieur Guillot's ears. "It no longer has any beauty," he said.