Despite having lopped the heads off their own Royal family the French seem to like ours quite well.
One of my French neighbours, a lady in her eighties, has never missed a British Royal occasion when it’s been televised. She has a tiny black and white TV with a lot of static thrown in for added effect. It lives in the kitchen as does she! Seriously she’s in the kitchen pretty much all day, though she does sleep in her bedroom at night.
The kitchen is the hub of the home for most rural French families and particularly for the oldies. It’s where the oven is – my neighbour’s is heated by wood and it heats the room up and provides hot water. It’s like a furnace in that room in the summer but the oven never goes out. The younger members of the family visit frequently to deliver, chop and stack wood for “la bête qui ne dort jamais” (the beast that never sleeps). The rest of the house is not heated and all the furniture is covered in white sheets to keep it pristine and hidden from the sun. I’d love to see what’s under there but it’s never happened and mostly likely never will – the French are a very private people I’ve found.
Everyone in the village knows about my neighbour’s propensity for all things Royal – she particularly likes weddings of the senior royals and last year watched Kate Middleton marry Prince William for the entire time it was on TV – in black and white and with static of course! It’s the only day anyone can remember when she didn’t cook lunch for the family in more than 50 years as she didn’t want to miss anything.
I suppose I’m a bit surprised by this because of the French Revolution. It’s such an integral part of French history and they are a race that hates to be bossed about so I just assumed that they’d hate the idea of a royal family. Mais non! It seems that almost 4 million people in France watched the Jubilee coverage on one channel on French TV over the weekend – and that’s despite the French Open being aired at the same time – always a big draw.
When I ask French people what it is they like about the Royals they say – the history, the traditions that have been maintained, heritage, pomp and splendour but mostly it seems to be that they like the Queen. They all say that she is a very dignified lady who knows her duty and has always done her best – they seem to respect that above all else which kind of makes you understand just why everyone disliked Monsieur Sarkozy so much – a bit chalk and cheese I’d say.
So from the French residents in my village and particularly my elderly neighbour, I think it’s fair to say the message is “Felicitations à Élisabeth II du Royaume-Uni de les Francais dans le Middle-of-nowhere, Pas-de-Calais”!