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Last autumn, in another confrontation with the Fourth Estate, he alarmed the directors of the state-subsidised France TV station by summoning them to a meeting where he queried the logic of the arrangement. He subsequently described subsidised television as a public disgrace, suggesting that it might be replaced by a “French BBC”. The matter was left up in the air, but the remarks can have done little to reinforce the broadcasters’ confidence in their continuing independence.

Macron’s regal habits have been ridiculed by, among others, his predecessor, François Hollande. He rose to power by serving Hollande, first as a councillor, then as a minister. In a tactic of entirely Gaullist cynicism he repeatedly reassured Hollande that he was not a presidential candidate, while secretly spending a fortune on opinion polls to find out how he should present himself. Hollande, who now loathes him, recently retaliated, describing his successor as “a child who is playing with the presidency as an infant plays with a box of toys”.

Certainly, the style of Hollande’s presidency was less concerned with grandeur, but the manner of his departure from office was so ignominious that few will pay attention to his judgments today. He is still fondly remembered for the occasion when he was filmed leaving the Elysée Palace on the pillion of a police motor scooter, heading for a nearby love nest. He was disguised in a crash helmet but given away by his socks, which he had forgotten to change. To date President Macron has not provided “My People”, as he calls the French, with any such informal moments, and he is unlikely to do so, given the omnipresence of his consort Brigitte, whom Macron installed as “Co-Prince of Andorra” (one of his presidential perks), and who seems to have invented a role for herself as a “helicopter wife” still sub-consciously checking her former pupil’s schoolwork.

De Gaulle chose the army as his route to power and passed out of the military academy at St Cyr in 1912 at the age of 21, thirteenth in a list of over 200. He was 6ft 4 inches tall at a time when, as Jackson notes, the average height of French males was 5ft 3ins. He joined the infantry and his first regimental commander was a nondescript colonel named Philippe Pétain. In the brief two years of peace that remained Charles de Gaulle got to know his commanding officer quite well. This was not for professional reasons. “At the time I was very keen on women,” de Gaulle later recalled. “And so was Pétain; that brought us together. We talked about them the whole time. Each week we went to Paris on the train . . . [and] . . . we would from time to time bump into each other.” This unexpected insight into de Gaulle’s youth, and into his relationship with his commanding officer, is typical of Jackson’s method, mixing analysis, official records, private correspondence and gossip into an encyclopaedic view of his subject’s life and times.

In London, during the war, as the only French minister and general to defy events and disobey the order to surrender, de Gaulle became France. Using any weapons he could find, stubbornness, courage, moral blackmail, hysterical rage, sulking, insults, flattery and cunning, he confronted the brutal facts of his country’s humiliation and overcame them. By a combination of acute political intelligence and strength of will he imposed his view of history over events. In 1940 he was a lowly two-star general. When a five-star general, in an extraordinary gesture, agreed to serve under him and deferred to him in public, de Gaulle merely observed, “I felt he had departed a greater man than when he had arrived.”
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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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