It’s been a century since a French president was attacked by one of his own citizens, says Maxime Tandonnet in Le Figaro. So it was quite something to see Emmanuel Macron being slapped in the face while meeting crowds in southern France yesterday. In 1899 Emile Loubet was bashed on the head with a cane by a furious royalist. That was in the wake of the Dreyfus affair, a treason scandal that divided France. Loubet’s “debonair” successor, Armand Fallières, had his beard yanked by a monarchist waiter in 1908 while strolling down the Champs-Élysées. But modern presidents feel comfortable “blending in with the crowd”, albeit surrounded by bodyguards.
The slap changes everything. As in 1899, France is “deeply torn” between two societies that can no longer support each other – a bourgeoisie at ease with globalisation and a seething “peripheral France”. The Elysée Palace no longer embodies national unity, but one France “rejected by another”. Make no mistake, it’s astonishing for the head of state to be so viscerally confronted by “the collective emotion, anger and frustration” of the public. Heads of state usually enjoy our de facto respect. If it was meant to “demean and humiliate” the highest office in the land, it worked. This lamentable and cowardly act doesn’t just reflect France’s “loss of standards”. It sets a chaotic precedent as a Jupiterian president comes crashing back to earth.
Quirk of history Macron will feel he’s been smacked “backwards in time”, says François-Guillaume Lorrain in Le Point. His assailant bellowed “Montjoie! St Denis!”, a royalist war cry used before battles or crusades as far back as 1214, and picked up by the far-right French monarchist movement Action Française. It’s shorthand for “protect the realm, hold the line”.
Read the full article here (paywall).