French words of the week: Adieux à la Reine (21/9/2022)

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Marché aux fleurs Reine-Elizabeth II in Paris
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As the country with so much history with neighbouring England, you can imagine that the Queen’s funeral has gotten round-the-clock coverage in France.

In a bit of strange timing, the subject of my last newsletter, Royal historian and TV host Stephen Bern has been everywhere with his anecdotes and documentaries. (Apparently he had met the Queen 5-6 times, but doesn’t remember since it happened so often.)

French language note: For goodbyes in French, we usually say “au revoir” or “à bientôt“, both of which actually mean “until we meet again” or “until next time”. The word “adieu” means a more permanent goodbye.

Anyway, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech in English, put together a video celebrating the Queen, and placed the British flag in honor outside the Palais de l’Elysées (he himself was not placing flags, but I presume it was some assistant.)

In addition, one of the would-be pretenders to the French throne, the Comte de Paris also paid tribute (yes, there are several royal pretenders, including a descendant of Napoleon).

The Eiffel tower turned off its lights and the Paris metro “George V” changed its name to “Elizabeth II”.

(For non-Brits, King George V was the King of Great Britain during WWI, and also Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather. The metro station George V is located on the famed Avenue de Champs-Elysees in Paris, between metro stations named after French General Charles de Gaulle and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.)

For a republic like France, the round-the-clock coverage and emotion may like a lot until we remember how closely the history of France and the U.K have been intertwined.

From the times of the Celtic tribes and Romans travelling back and forth between Bretagne and Grand Bretagne (Great Britain in French), to Guillaume le Conquérant setting off across La Manche (English channel), and the more recent wars as Allies and friends.

On her last visit to France in 2014 at the age of 88, Queen EIizabeth unveiled the official renaming of the flower market on Ile de la Cité in Paris to “Marché aux fleurs Reine-Elizabeth II“. Here is a famous photo from that visit (which the Socialist Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo wishes would go away):

The Queen had remarked how much she liked the market during her 1st visit to France in 1948, when the then-princess had visited Paris with her father. She visited France 14 times in all, the most of any foreign country. (She visited Canada 22 times, but as Queen of Canada.)

So as we wish her family courage in what must be a very difficult time, instead of “adieu”, I imagine what she would actually want us to say is “Vive le Roi” or rather “Long live the King”.

In other news:

  • If you remember me mentioning a few weeks ago that a director of the Louvre museum was arrested for trafficking Egyptian artefacts, it was apparently a photo of Kim Kardashian posing next to a mummy at the MET in NY that set off this chain of events. Talk about influence. (article in French)
  • The Eiffel tower is now going to turn off its lights at 11:45pm instead of 1pm to try to save on electricity bills this winter.

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