Emmanuel Macron has reportedly made a significant and “revolutionary” change to France’s flag – but critics have already slammed the new design.
One of the most recognisable flags in the world has undergone a major, even “revolutionary,” change – yet it was so subtle that few people have noticed despite that change beginning to take place more than a year ago.
Indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron was so concerned about a possible backlash against him “touching the deep symbols of the country,” that the change hasn’t even been announced.
Despite that, it’s now been all but confirmed that the French flag – the tricolour – has a new hue.
While the famous flag remains red, white and blue, the relatively bright blue that it used to sport has been replaced by a darker navy blue.
The change has not gone down well in some quarters of the French bureaucracy who are aghast at the tinkering with the tricolour and have labelled the new design as “ugly”.
Flag change to reflect French Revolution
The nouveau drapeau began appearing a year ago at press conferences given by Mr Macron at the Elysee Palace – the official residence of the French President in Paris – but has now begun to pop up at other government buildings too.
The change was revealed by French radio station Europe 1 which said the deeper blue was urged on Mr Macron by a number of senior advisers as well as naval personnel stationed at the Elysee Palace.
Europe 1’s political editor Louis de Raguenel reported that the new darker shade is seen by some as “more elegant”. But the chief reason was more revolutionary in nature returning the blue shade to one closer to that used in the 1794 flag hoisted in the years following the removal of the monarchy and the establishment of the First Republic.
“Clearly, it’s very political: reconnecting with a symbol of the French revolution,” reported the news outlet.
The change to the new blue was also reported in newspaper Le Parisien.
The French flag moved away from the darker shade only relatively recently, when France joined what is now the European Union.
During the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in the late 1970s, a brighter blue was introduced. One reason was so the flag would stand out more on television.
However, Mr de Raguenel reported that the blue was also changed to match that used on the EU’s flag which features 12 yellow stars on a blue background.
“With the European flag now affixed almost everywhere next to the French flag, it was decided to use the same blue colour – above all aesthetic reasons.”
Pictures of previous summits and political events where the French and EU flags are placed next to one another shows the blues matching perfectly. But less so since last year with the shades now out of step.
New flag slammed as ’ugly’
Mr Macron faces an election in 2022 and there is speculation the deeper, historic blue may appeal to the patriotism of some voters.
But the timing of the move away from the blue EU hue is awkward because in January, France takes over the rotating presidency of the bloc.
“A few weeks before the French presidency of the European Union, everyone swears that this is not an anti-European gesture,” said Europe 1’s Mr de Raguenel.
The change has already been rubbished by some within the French state, he said.
“The Elysee Palace has experienced an internal debate, between those who consider that this new flag is ugly and others, attached to returning to the flag of their childhood before the Giscard years.”
So touchy is the subject, Mr Macron hasn’t mentioned it at all.
“The entourage of Emmanuel Macron has no desire to give the image of a president who touches the deep symbols of the country, even if there is a meaning behind it all,” said Mr de Raguenel.
However, he said it was definitely a change that was happening with the darker tricolour now flying not only at the Elysee Palace but also the National Assembly – France’s parliament – and some ministry buildings.
There has been no decree that the current flag has to be ditched for official purposes, but few government bodies would want to be at odds with the President.
The French flag is one of the most famous designs in the world. It was inspired by the Netherlands flag which is also red, white and blue by place horizontally rather than vertically. Flags derived from the French banner are used by numerous other nations including Italy and Ireland.
The red and the blue colours are identified with various French saints. Red and blue are also the traditional colours of Paris and were worn by militia at the storming of the Bastille in 1789, a major conflict during the Revolution.
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