‘While the world mocks the British Royal Family, France remains loyal’

Regret over the guillotine or nostalgia? Journalist Nabila Ramdani explores why France loves The Royals

British royal news fills French newspapers and magazines without resorting to ‘tittle-tattle’; Paris Match cover from 1972

Despite its ability to put on a brave face behind immense wealth and privilege, the British Royal Family appears to be in permanent crisis at the moment.

Errant members, including an actual son of the King, have heaped ignominy on the Windsors, and there are regular sleaze and diplomatic scandals.

A dynasty in trouble

Prince Andrew, who was born second in line to the throne (he is now eighth), has become a pariah figure, with military titles and patronages stripped because of past shady links with an international sex ring.

Even Charles III, who has been King for less than a year, has been implicated in a cash-for-honours charity case which, lucky for him, the Metropolitan Police has stopped investigating.

Prince Harry, currently fifth in line, has infamously put his name to a ghostwritten book and documentary TV series dragging pretty much everyone and everything through the mud.

As well as betraying his own, he has deserted England and moved to the United States, where he is continually pilloried for his hypocritical media antics.

Constitutional monarchies welcome dissent, it is all part of the democratic process, but when they are being ruthlessly mocked, they are in serious trouble.

Nobody would argue that satirical US TV show South Park’s portrayal of Harry and Meghan Markle as ‘The Dumb Prince and his Stupid Wife’ has bolstered the Royal brand.

In spite of all this, there is at least one country that always seems to stay loyal, and that is France.

A vast Windsor fanzone

Incredible as it sounds, a once ferociously anti-Royal republic, which literally chopped the heads off its King and Queen in 1793, sometimes feels like a vast Windsor fanzone.

Hence so much time and energy being put into King Charles’ rearranged state visit to France, which will take place in September.

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It comes as Le Touquet, the seaside resort where President Emmanuel Macron has a holiday home, renames its airport Elizabeth II, in honour of Charles’ mother.

Le Monde has just published a new ‘Great History of the Kings of France’ series highlighting the enormous contribution they made to the creation of Gallic institutions.

Media coverage is mostly respectful

France by no means started with the publication of the Rights of Man, the 1789 document that underpinned the Revolution and the start of republicanism. Fascination in the hereditary Crown continues, along with great affection for the British version.

When Queen Elizabeth II died, Tricolours were flown at half mast, and the lights of the Eiffel Tower were extinguished. “To you, she was your Queen,” Mr Macron told British subjects, adding: “To us, she was the Queen. She will be with us forever.”

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Royal news fills French newspapers and magazines, along with primetime documentaries, and they are by no means all based on tittle-tattle about ‘Hazbeen ‘n’ Megain’.

It may be guilt at the horrible deaths of Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, or some deep feeling that life was simpler with a single family as the head of state, but the French are enormously respectful.

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France dreams of how it might have been

We live in an increasingly complex world, and nostalgia for an easier, pre-Enlightenment age can feel both comforting and unifying.

The role that replaced the Monarchy, the President, is often likened to a tinpot king, a figure who lives in a palace and who commands all military forces, yet who faces compulsory ejection from the job after a maximum of 10 years.

Despite his democratic mandate, the President is widely hated by huge swathes of the population too.

Under such circumstances, dreams of how it might have been are entirely understandable, and all the better if the United Kingdom inspires them.

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