Chirac: France confirms day of national mourning

Former President Jacques Chirac is remembered fondly in France, as a day of national mourning is declared for next week

France has set a day of national mourning this Monday to honour the late President Jacques Chirac, as President Emmanuel Macron pays homage, and most French people say he was a “good president”.

Mr Chirac - who was President of France from 1995 to 2007, and Prime Minister from 1974-76 and 1986-88 - died yesterday morning (Thursday September 26), aged 86.

Monday (September 30) will be a day of national mourning, and a service to honour Mr Chirac will be held in the Saint-Sulpice church in Paris at midday, the Élysée Palace has confirmed.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Macron said: “We have lost a great statesman, who loved us as much as we loved him. Jacques Chirac was a great Frenchman, and did so much for our nation and our values.”

Mr Macron also sent his “friendship, respect and condolences” to Mr Chirac’s widow, Bernadette Chirac, and other family members.

The Élysée Palace will also be open to the public until Sunday, with a condolences collection available in the lobby for anyone who wishes to pay their respects.

A day of official national mourning in France means that all public buildings will be required to lower their flags to half-mast, and there will be a minute of silence held throughout the country.

This will only be the eighth time that official national mourning has been declared during this Republic.

The other times were after the deaths of former heads of State, Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou and François Mitterrand; after the American terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; after the January and November terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015; and the terrorist incidents in Nice in 2016.

(http://kiosque.lefigaro.fr/le-figaro/2019-09-27)

Mr Chirac appears on the front cover of Le Figaro today, with a cover line reading "Adieu" (kiosque.lefigaro.fr)

Mr Chirac is popular in the French collective memory, with a new poll from Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting finding that 79% of the public believe he was “a good president”.

Nine in 10 people said he appeared “kind”, and similar numbers agreed that he was “charismatic (83%)”, dynamic (75%), and represented France (87%).

Politically, Mr Chirac is remembered as being one of the only European leaders to come out strongly against the Iraq war during the George W. Bush era in the United States.

He was also the country’s first leader to apologise publicly and extensively for the extent of the French collaboration with the Nazis and the deportation of Jews during World War II.

Indeed, the same poll found that the public most respects and remembers Mr Chirac for his opposition to the Iraq war (63%), his ending of obligatory military service (37%), his second election campaign against Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 (30%), and his recognition of the extent of the French Nazi collaboration (25%).

Gaël Sliman, president of pollster Odoxa, said: “In a nutshell, this list of events during the Chirac presidency evokes a portrait of a humanitarian president. This undoubtedly explains why he is now almost as popular among left-wing supporters as among right-wing supporters.”

In his later years, Mr Chirac became a somewhat-unlikely “cool icon” among young people, with many seeing him as part of the nostalgia for the 1970s and 80s, and appreciating him for his style and charisma.

This was known as “chicimania”, after Mr Chirac’s tongue-in-cheek nickname, “Chi chi” - and T-shirts and other merchandise bearing his face sold famously well.

There is even a Facebook group and Instagram account, both named “F*** Yeah Jacques Chirac”, which have 45,000 members and 19,600 followers respectively.

They show many photos of the former President looking very well-dressed, with the casual “swag”, humour, and vintage style that fans enjoyed.

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