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Two French mayors explain why they refuse to lower flag for Queen

They feel it is not something which the 35,000 mairies of France should be involved in. ‘We built our history against a monarchy,’ said one

Two mayors have gone against a government circular to lower flag down to pay tribute to the Queen Pic: Alessia Pierdomenico / Shutterstock / Mairie de Bourges

Two French mayors are keeping their mairie flags flying at full mast in opposition to a circular order from the prime minister instructing them to lower flags as a tribute on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s death and her funeral on September 19.

Read more: ‘We loved her so much’: France reacts to news of the Queen’s death

The mayors claim that it would be inconsistent to lower their flag as mairie buildings carry the national motto ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity), which can be traced back to the fight to abolish the monarchy during the French Revolution.

Both mayors said, however, that their decision should not be considered as an insult to the Queen or the British monarchy or people, saying that their thoughts are with the Royal Family, the UK and the Commonwealth.

However, they feel it is not something which the 34,955 mairies of France should be involved in. The question of a lack of links between the specific commune and British Royalty was also raised.

It comes after public figures and throngs of celebrities from around the world paid tribute to the Queen, and President Emmanuel Macron published a video addressed to the people of the UK and the Commonwealth. 

Read more: Macron pays tribute to the Queen: ‘We all feel an emptiness’

“The flag order is disproportionate. It’s too much, ' Yann Galut, a former Parti socialiste member and mayor of Bourges (Cher), told The Connexion.

Lowering the flag must be saved for events that have an impact on the French Republic and its people, said Mr Galut, adding that the last times the mairie did so was for the death of former French president Jacques Chirac and of Samuel Paty, the teacher decapitated for having shown drawings of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.

He said, however, that he would have obeyed a notice ordering his mairie to lower the flag in the case of a terrorist attack in London, adding that this was in fact the case after the 2004 attacks in Spain. 

“The Queen of England is a monarch. We built our history against the monarchy,” said Mr Galut, questioning the symbolism behind the government's decision. 

He said he felt like the British monarchy exerted an inexplicable appeal over French politicians, without naming any one in particular.

Much of his arguments aligned with those of Patrick Proisy, the left-wing La France Insoumise mayor of Faches-Thumesnil (Hauts-de-France), who explained his decision on Twitter.

Mrs Galut and Proisy are the only two mayors known to be breaking the order.

Mr Galut, however, said that he understands President Macron attending the Queen’s funeral in London as well as the president paying tribute to the Queen’s history and significance to the world.

The vast majority of French mairies have followed the order and lowered their flags. Getlink, the cross-Channel tunnel operator, has also decided to put their flags at half mast. 

The Connexion was not immediately able to determine whether the circular is legally binding or, if so, what sanctions the mayors could face. Mr Galut said that his fellow councillors were assessing what possible sanctions they could face.

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