History | Citizenship

France desperate for a king, says historian

Is Macron a virtual monarch? As Britain enjoys its royal jubilee, across the Channel France raises a republican eyebrow. But beneath the disdain, might there be a touch of envy? Standing in front of the mirror, the man adjusts his magnificent robes and gets ready to greet the crowd outside the royal palace. As he steps onto the balcony, a shout goes up: “Long live King Emanuel!” Some say that this is how President Macron would like to see himself – and that he has much in common with France’s most powerful king, Louis XIV. Louis came to the throne in 1643 aged four, and reigned for 72 years. He increased France’s military might and the power of the monarchy. He also created the largest palace in Europe, at Versailles. He was the patron of writers such as Molière, and supported the Académie Française. Because of his magnificence he became known as the Sun King. And such was his power that the words “L’État, c’est moi” are often attributed to him. Macron once said that France lacks “the presence of a king – a king whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead.” Writing in UnHerd, John Lewis-Stempel argues that “Having disposed of the royal family in the Revolution of 1789, the French immediately regretted it, and sought to heal the psychological wound by elevating Napoleon into an Emperor.” One of Macron’s opponents complained that France has a “presidential monarchy”. The president controls France’s government, parliament and constitutional court. He is also head of the armed forces. Like Louis, Macron has compared himself to Jupiter, the king of the gods. And he says grand things such as “I am never late, because nothing can start without me.” Also like Louis, he loves spending money. For example, he is spending millions of euros on a “master plan” to make French the world’s main language. France now has a debt-to-GDP ration of 115%.  And what is Macron’s favourite place for entertaining foreign leaders? The Palace of Versailles. Is Macron a virtual monarch? Crowning Macron Yes: As president, he has powers that are the envy of other European heads of state – the Queen’s are nothing compared to his. Now that he has been elected for a second time he will become even more regal. No: Macron may model himself on Louis XIV, but he remains answerable to parliament and to voters. There is no way he could rule without a prime minister, or embark on a project as ambitious as Versailles. Or... It would be disastrous if he could behave like Louis, who suppressed religious freedom, involved France in wars which took a heavy toll and paved the way for the French Revolution with his excesses.     KeywordsMolière - One of France’s most respected playwrights. His most famous works include Le Malade Imaginaire (The Imaginary Patient).

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