‘The king of bling’: Macron’s birthday celebration in lavish palace draws ire in France
France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon is to turn 40 on December 21. Macron decided to celebrate his birthday this weekend in the Renaissance style Château de Chambord in France's Loire Valley, once the stomping ground of French royalty. The immense chateau, which boasts a nearly 500-hectare estate, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction, located some 150 kilometers southwest of Paris.
The posh gala dinner, which included some of 15 Macron’s relatives and friends, took place in one of the palace’s 440 rooms on Friday evening.
Macron, his wife Brigitte and her children and grandchildren spent the weekend in one of the four-star cottages, some 200 meters from the best-known Renaissance chateau. Such cottages can be rented for €800 to €1,000 per weekend, according to French media.
However, the Elysees Palace emphasized that the president wasn’t spending French taxpayers’ money for his luxurious party, but used private funds, L’Obs newspaper reported, citing the Elysees statement.
Yet the choice of the venue, which was commissioned by Francis I of France for his royal hunts in the 16th century, was harshly criticized by the opposition.
Macron’s presidential rival and most trenchant critic Jean-Luc Mélenchon immediately reacted to the lavish birthday party in a series of tweets and comments. “Happy birthday, M. Macron,” the La France Insoumise left-wing political party leader wrote bitterly. “He celebrates [his birthday] in Chambord, that gives him a monarchical image that suits him a lot.”
Je souhaite un bon anniversaire à monsieur #Macron. C'est bien qu'il aille à #Chambord, ça donne de lui une image monarchique qui lui va bien. Je lui conseille d'aller voir quelque chose à Chambord : il y a là-bas un escalier à DOUBLE révolution. De quoi méditer. #LeGrandRDV— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) December 17, 2017
“Fuss in Chambord: paper plates, candy and cotillion dance,” Adrien Quatennens from Melenchon’s party added.
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who also repeatedly exchanges barbs with the president, reminded the president that while he celebrates his birthday, the whole country “suffers from taxes, insecurity and immigration.”
“Eras go by, but the oligarchy remains cut off from the people,” he said.
Pendant que les Francais subissent impôts, insécurité, immigration, M. Macron fête ses 40 ans à #Chambord. Les époques passent, l'oligarchie coupée du peuple reste.— N. Dupont-Aignan (@dupontaignan) December 16, 2017
Green Party politician Esther Benbassa pointed out that Macron arrived at the chateau on the same day the French government ruled out any increase in the national minimum wage, while Lionnel Luca from the center-right Union for a Popular Movement jokingly wrote: “Who is the king?” in an apparent reference to Macron’s much-discussed lifestyle.
Gilbert Collard from the National Front even made a collage, putting Macron’s and his wife’s faces onto the bodies of a French king and queen (or mistress). “The king has fun,” he wrote, apparently referring to Victor Hugo’s play about lavish balls at royal palaces.
Le roi s'amuse : Macron fête ses 40 ans en son château de Chambord : ah çà ira !!! pic.twitter.com/KKjBdnwE4N— Gilbert Collard (@GilbertCollard) December 16, 2017
His collage inspired other people on Twitter, who imagined the “Jupiter” in another royal “emploi.”
With speculation rife that Macron, who has been in office some 200 days, considers himself a king rather than a president, the Twitterati tried to get him back to the real thing. “Macron wasn’t elected by God. Yet he thinks that he is the king of France,” one person wrote.
“Macron is a king of bling bling,” another person noted, using a slang term for elaborate and flashy jewellery.