Friday, April 29, 2011

French hoopla over Britain's royal wedding: Since the 5th Republic, France has had "a kind of elected king"

For a country proud of its republican streak, France is making quite a fuss over the British royal wedding
notes Matthew Saltmarsh (while from another part of the globe, the Associated Press observes that "Interest in Friday's nuptials between Prince William and Kate Middleton is breaking down along generational lines in the ethnically diverse British Caribbean").
Despite the fact that the major royal events are rare — the wedding Friday between Prince William and Kate Middleton will be the first big British royal celebration since the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 — the ceremony and the surrounding hoopla this week serve to remind the French of their own tempestuous associations with royalty, which retains associations in this secular country.

Since the engagement was announced in November, media coverage has been building. … As in many other countries, sales of royal memorabilia have been brisk in France. … Even if they cannot always explain why, among many French, there remains a certain fascination with their cross-Channel neighbors.

“We’ve always had a very specific relationship with the British,” said Bruno Jeanbart, director of OpinionWay, a Paris-based research and polling firm. “In the 20th century, the enemy was Germany. Or was the real enemy the British? There’s always been a kind of competition between the two countries.”

While many Frenchmen enjoy chiding their cross-Channel cousins about their culinary shortcomings, poor weather and generally quirky ways, the fact that an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 French people live in London alone tells a different story (the number of British living in all of France is estimated at about 200,000). A poll in Le Figaro last weekend found 95 percent of the French expatriates were happy in the British capital.

But beyond the love-hate relationship with Britain, the French have conflicting feelings about monarchy, secularism and the intersection with politics.

“There’s always been a significant interest in royalty in France,” Mr. Jeanbart said.

… In the highly unlikely event of a restoration, the throne could pass to Jean d'Orléans, the duke of de Vendôme and son of the Count of Paris. … Another potential claimant would be the Spanish-born Prince Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, the duke of Anjou.

Apart from the French royal line, there is the House of Grimaldi, which serves as something of a surrogate royal family in France. In July, Monaco will celebrate the wedding of Prince Albert II to the South African former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, though the impending nuptials have been overshadowed by the grander preparations in London.