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France: Standard of the President of the Republic

Last modified: 2003-07-12 by ivan sache
Keywords: president | chirac (jacques) |
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[Presidential Standard]by Zeljko Heimer

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Standard of Jacques Chirac (1995-)

President Chirac has not choosen any symbol, so I think that he will not do so. Thus his personal standard is now exactly the same as that of the French Prime Minister: Square with three undefaced stripes, blue-white-red, and the optical proportions.

Armand Noël du Payrat, 15 January 1998

Car flag

[Car flag]by Zeljko Heimer

As above, but in proportion 7:8 and with golden fringe (not shown here).

Source: Album des Pavillons [pay00]

The French national flag on the official picture of the President

Every city hall in France shall display the official picture of the President of the Republic. There is one and only one such official picture, made by a photograph selected by the President.

The current official picture shows something weird: the Tricolore French national flag appears to be red-white-blue.
The reversion of the colours was caused by a sudden wind gust when the photograph Bettina Rheims took the picture. She pointed out the proble', but Jacques Chirac found the picture really good and refused to have another shot.

Wind gusts caused another weird effect during the funerals of the past President François Mitterrand in Jarnac. The Tricolore flag covering the coffin was blown away by a wind gust two times during the ceremony.

Ivan Sache, 18 April 2001

A weird French flag seen behind Jacques Chirac

A French Tricolor flag with a narrow white stripe has been regularly shown behing President Jacques Chirac during official events.

The flag can be seen on a color picture published in the scientific magazine La Recherche, # 342 (May 2000). The picture was taken during the 10th World Conference on AIDS in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire), in December 1997.
As far as I am aware, this is the oldest reported appearance of that weird flag.

In February 1998, the French President Jacques Chirac went to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, short after the murder of Préfet Claude Erignac. He gave there an official speech, as usual standing by flags of European Union and France. Nothing worth being noted, but... Jorge Candeias noticed that the French flag had a narrow white stripe.

On 26 March 1999, this very same flag was highlighted in a letter to the Editor by Jean Nicolas, published in the daily newspaper Le Pays (Belfort release). The letter can be translated into English as follows:

"I have been having my doubts for years under the Presidency of François Mitterrand; his successor, Jacques Chirac, confirmed my doubts. Indeed, our national emblem, born during the Revolution, was modified on the sly and nobody reacted. Our flag shall be made of three vertical blue, white and red of equal size, which is no longer the case, at least for the flag of Elysée. The white stripe was reduced by half under the Presidency of François Mitterrand, and his successor seems to put up with this flag. How can a man, even if he is the President of the Republic, assume the right of changing our flag? I know well that white symbolizes royalty and that by "Republicanism" François Mitterrand wanted to make a lasting impression, but there are probably texts, regulations and maybe a law defining precisely our emblem. I know well that today the "Prince" sometimes decides on his own, against the course of history. It is great time to come back to a more Republican conception of our emblem and one of our Deputees or our Senator should ask a question to the Government on this matter."

The only interesting point in that rant is the description of the erroneous flag. There is no evidence that the change in the width of the white stripe was decided by François Mitterrand. He ended his second seven-year mandate in 1995, and the letter quoted above is dated 1999. There was a trend in France to portray Mitterrand as a modern Machiavel who spent all of his time manipulating people and information, but even his worst detractors never noticed the alledged change in the flag. To my knowledge, the erroneous flag was seen for the first time in 1997 (see above). Since then, the flag was regularly seen behind Jacques Chirac, always during official ceremonies. This is therefore a flag used indoor behind Jacques Chirac and not the flag hoisted over the Presidential Palace of Elysée as the text quoted above seems to indicate it.

A picture in the magazine Armées d'Aujourd'hui (Today's Armed Forces), sponsored by the Ministry of Defense, shows Jacques Chirac on 25 November 2000 in Mitrovica (a city in Kosovo where French troops try to maintain a very unstable equilibrium between Albanians and Serbs) during a press release.
The French Tricolor has the white stripe clearly narrower than the two others. It is, however, not possible to state clearly the proportion of the flag, because of the folds in the flag.

What kind of flag could it be?

  • It was suggested it could be the new flag of the President of the Republic. Such a change is highly improbable. First, the Presidency would probably have sent some official communique about such a change, and at least Armand du Payrat, Editor of Album des Pavillons [pay00], would have been informed. Second, the flag placed in such official instances behind the President has always been until now the national flag of France, not the President's personal standard.
  • It was also suggested that a (huge) manufacturer's mistake was initially not noticed and that the faultive flag continued to be in use until now without causing trouble.
  • In April 2002, Franciae Vexillae [frv] suggested that: "These proportions were, apparently, calculated to look equal on a TV screen when the President is filmed in close shot."

Ivan Sache, 5 September 2002

On 23 May 2002, Senator Jean-Louis Masson asked the following question (as a written question sent to Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of National Defense) : "Should the tricolore flag have its three stripes of equal dimensions ?" Furthermore, he asked which proportion the stripes should have if not have the stripes. The question was not answered. Masson asked it again on 11 July and got an answer on 22 August (Senate Official Gazette, 22 August 2002, p. 1864).
The answer doesn't give any clue on the weird flag and rather implies such a flag should not exist:

"Ordered by the law of 27 pluviôse year II, the national flag was made of three colours disposed in three equal stripes, placed vertically. Article 2 of the Constitution of 1946 quoted these dispositions stating that the "national emblem is the tricolore blue, white, red flag with three vertical stripes of equal dimensions. Article 2 of the Constitution of the 4 October 1958 also states that the tricolore blue, white, red flag is the national emblem of France, but does not give any precision about the width of each stripe; therefore, the former dispositions should be considered as unchanged.
It should be added, however, that the use is different in the Navy. Initially, the law of 27 pluviôse year II stated that the proportions of the stripes of the jack and ordinary ensigns should follow the custom and that the masthead pennant should be made of three stripes "1/5th blue, 1/5th white, and 3/5th red". This unequal width of the stripes for the ensign and the masthead pennant was confirmed in the XIXth century. A plate dated 1836 prescribed the following widths, which ares still in force : for the ensign : blue 30%, white 33%, red 37%; for the pennant : blue 20%, white 20%, red 60%."

Olivier Touzeau, 29 September 2002

On 14 January 2003, the German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder met the French Président de la République Jacques Chirac in Paris. Thye presented together their new project for Europe.
Unsurprisingly, the French tricolor flag placed behind the speakers, along with the German national flag and the European Union flag, had its usual narrow white stripe.

The very same flag was seen once again behind Jacques Chira during the Franco-British Summit hold in Le Touquet on 4 February 2003

Ivan Sache, 15 January 2003