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THE VIEW FROM FRANCE

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Royal baby fever grips… la France

Live blogs, round-the-clock coverage on 24-hour news channels – the French media were well and truly struck down by royal baby fever this week. Some commentators even suggested it was because the French missed having their own royal family.

Royal baby fever grips... la France
Screengrab from the Parisien as Royal Baby fever grips France.

The arrival of the new royal baby on Monday sparked near hysteria among the UK media and their French counterparts were not far behind.

Granted it was not the busiest of news days and it is summer but the French media pulled out all the stops in their coverage of the royal birth.

As soon as it was announced the Duchess of Cambridge had gone into labour the story was the top item throughout Monday on most French news websites.

And several sites went further, and launched up-to-date live coverage of the event throughout the day and into the night on Monday. And it was not just the more popular press like Le Parisien, whose most read articles were on the royal birth.

Centre-right daily Le Figaro, one of France’s traditional broadsheet newspapers also launched a live blog “En direct: It’s a boy” which was still running on Tuesday morning.

For the French who might have missed out on all the drama Europe1 radio website had their “Minute-par-minute – Revivez la journée” (Minute by minute – relive the day).

It wasn’t just the birth of a baby the French press were concerned about. Just as for the Queen’s Jubilee and the Royal Wedding the French continued to be intrigued by the traditions and customs of Britain’s royal family.

Numerous feature articles were donated to the traditions and customs of the British Royal family and what the birth of a future king meant for the crown.

 “Everything you need to know about this birth” – read the headline in Le Parisien and Le Figaro dedicated articles to “L’arbre genealogique des Windsor” (the Windsor family tree) and “William un prince normal” in a nod to François Hollande’s much repeated pre-election promise to be a “un president normal”.

In all Le Figaro had no fewer than seven articles dedicated to the royals and the birth of the future king, including one on the baby’s star sign, on its homepage on Tuesday.

The coverage in the centre-left Le Monde and the left-wing Liberation was slightly more reserved, where attention was concentrated on the pope’s visit to Brazil and the rise in hate speech directed towards France’s traveller communities. Although Liberation did include a piece on seven reasons why the new baby is no ordinary newborn.

Hollande congratulates happy couple

Even on Tuesday morning France’s politicians, appearing in TV and radio interviews, were asked to give their reaction to the birth of the baby.

Asked what she would say to new mum Kate Middleton, Paris mayoral candidate Anne Hidalgo told BFMTV: “She needs to enjoy the moment”.

Eventually baby mania took hold of the country’s President François Hollande, although his congratulatory message to the happy couple, did come in long after the Obamas and after most Commonwealth leaders had already expressed their joy.

“The happy news of the birth of the Prince is welcomed by the French people. Valerie Trierweiler and I would like to express our congratulations and warmest wishes of joy and happiness for your newly expanded family,” the French president wrote in a letter to William and Kate.

Hollande did not stop there.

In a second letter he also sent his “warmest congratulations” to Queen Elizabeth for the birth of her great grandson.

“In these moments, France fully supports the happiness of the royal family and the joy of the British people,” he said.

“The prince will one day be called upon to rule and to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, who ever since the Entente Cordiale, have contributed to developing excellent relations between the our two countries.”

Do the French miss their royal family?

Should we be surprised by the extent of the coverage in France for a Royal birth?

One French commentator on BFMTV suggested the obsession with Kate and William and their new prince was because the French were missing having their own royal family, who were rather unceremoniously ditched over 220 years ago.

Stephane Bern, an expert on all things royal, told French radio RTL that royal families are like “key stones” that act like “cement” in keeping a country together.

He believes the French are fascinated by royalty because the country lacks this “cement” and says the role of the French president needs to be better defined.

“We ask our president to be both king and the prime minister. It’s very complicated,” he said. Citing a famous a quote from former President Charles de Gaulle, Bern said: “The French have a taste for princes, but they will always look abroad.”

Perhaps the French would like to have their own “Guillaume et Katherine” whose every move they could follow.

Instead the nearest they have had to any kind of “baby fever” recently was the birth of Giulia to former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his singer and model wife Carla Bruni.

Although apart from Carla claiming recently that her husband does not change nappies, the pair have tried to keep little Giulia well and truly out of the public eye.

That is unlikely to be so easy for the newest member of the Windsor family, whose every dribble and every step will be closely followed by the media. Even in France it seems.

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BRITAIN

‘Unofficial’ Gallic gifts shunned by royals

A French entrepreneur who travelled to London to present his unique ‘Made in France’ presents to the royal baby this week ended up disappointed. The Frenchman told The Local that he was shunned because his Gallic gifts were not "official". He has not given up, however.

'Unofficial' Gallic gifts shunned by royals
Bertrand Dilasser and one of the 'Made in France' gifts. Photo: Bertrand Dilasser

The birth of Prince George was a bitter-sweet experience for French entrepreneur and fan of the British royal family Bertrand Dilasser.

Last week, the 30-year-old Frenchman went to both Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace to try to present his "Made in France" gifts for the newborn to the happy parents William and Kate.

But the gifts, which had been chosen in a ballot in which thousands of French people took part, were sadly not acceptable.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A GALLERY OF SNAPSHOTS FROM HIS VISIT

“Unfortunately, they didn't accept unofficial presents,”  Dilasser told The Local. “I was told to send them in the post, but I don’t think that’s a good idea."

Undaunted, Dilasser is planning to return to London next week to hand the toys over to the French Embassy or the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve also thought about leaving them in one of the shops where Kate goes to do her shopping, and asking if they can take a photo of her with them," he said.

Dilasser's quest to present a Gallic gift to the royal couple on the birth of their first child began months ago.  

However, the French founder of Coocoonoo, a website that specializes in presents for newborn babies, didn’t think he should choose it himself.

“We wanted it to be a present from the French people rather than from an individual person or company," he explained.

To this end, in collaboration with famili.fr, a website offering advice to mothers-to-be, Dilasser set up an online competition on the website ‘Ensemble pour la couronne’ (‘Altogether for the crown’) inviting French people to vote on their favourite twelve toys.

They were asked to choose from a list of 30 items, all of which had been made in France.

Between June 20th and July 14th (Kate’s supposed due-date) more than 10,246 votes were cast and 1,235 congratulatory messages left.

The top three of the 12 winning gifts were: a guitar-shaped music box from a Toulouse-based business called ‘Barnabé Aime le Café’, a rubber giraffe called Sophie from a company called ‘Vulli’ in Rumily, and a toy car from ‘Vilac’ in Moirans-en-Montagne.

Sadly they remain in his hands.

Dilasser dismissed any suggestion that the French – who have lived in a Republic since 1789 – are not all that interested in the arrival of yet another British royal.

“People may say that it’s just a baby and that we’re making an unwarranted fuss, but the fact that over 10,000 people voted on our site is testament to the fact that the French really are interested,” he said.

And he gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the name George – which he described as a ‘Franco-British’ name that works equally well in both languages.

Already, the latest addition to the royal family looks set to have one of the best-equipped playrooms in history as gifts fly in from all corners of the globe.

With presents ranging from knitted kangaroos to cradles and condoms, country leaders wasted no time before shipping over their offerings even before Prince George was born.

What Prince George will make of Dilasser's 'Made in France' gifts – if he gets them at all – remains to be seen.

 

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