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Emmanuel Macron’s first official portrait. De Gaulle’s “Mémoires de Guerre” is visible on the left (© Soazig de la Moissonniere/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images)

Since then Macron, despite his crushing parliamentary majority, also treats his party with disdain. The members of his majority have little to do since the centre of power has shifted away from the Assembly towards the committees surrounding his presidency. And where damaging parliamentary opposition can be expected in the Assembly, Macron, like de Gaulle, governs by decree. There is increasing unrest about this tendency in the Assembly. Over 100 members of his majority failed to support new measures making it more difficult to apply for political asylum, and one of his deputies has now left REM and is hoping to form a new parliamentary group. His popularity nationally has fallen by 20 per cent since his election and an increasing number of voters identify him as “arrogant”, “alarming” and “unable to understand the concerns of ordinary people”. As the power of the government increases and the influence of parliamentary opposition declines, this opposition is likely to grow.

Macron has identified the Gaullist era (1958 to 1970) as a sub-conscious drive by the French nation to return to the comforting tradition of monarchy, an attempt, like the Napoleonic era, to “fill the void” left by the public execution of Louis XVI. He has claimed that “the people of France supported the Revolution but they never supported the killing of the king”, and in his first year he has seized every opportunity to underline the monarchical aspect of France’s executive presidency. On the day of his inauguration he marched alone into the courtyard of the Louvre — originally a royal palace — to the strains of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. He has on more than one occasion paid a nocturnal visit to the Basilica of St Denis, heading for the crypt which is the mausoleum of the mediaeval kings of France. He held his 40th birthday party in the Château of Chambord, the extravagant renaissance palace of François I. And, in a surprising confession to a gathering of American university students last month, he said that “François Premier”, the patron of Leonardo da Vinci, was his “model ruler”.

Charles de Gaulle did not need to underline monarchical references when he returned to power as the first president of the Fifth Republic in 1958. His autocratic habits were already well-known. On the day of his inauguration he paraded solemnly with René Coty, last president of the Fourth Republic, to the Arc de Triomphe to pay homage before the tomb of France’s Unknown Soldier. It was the final moment in the ceremony of transition, following which Coty — who had played a central role in facilitating the recall of de Gaulle, declaring that he was the one man who could save France from civil war — expected to be escorted to his car by the new president, kissed on both cheeks, saluted and waved off into a dignified obscurity. Instead de Gaulle, towering over his nondescript predecessor, briefly shook his hand, murmured “Au revoir, Monsieur Coty”, and then, turning on his heel, plunged into the crowd for another of the passionate bains de foule in which he specialised — leaving the unfortunate Coty to make an ignominious exit from the national stage alone.
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June 10th, 2018
3:06 PM
The "X" have ruled for long enough to forget that the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs was not the finish of Empire-building, but only a setback for the losers. This time the invasion is all but complete and just awaits the end-game.

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