THE corruption scandals, the colourful private life, the economic failures…all were forgotten yesterday as France paid its final respects to Jacques Chirac.
French president Emmanuel Macron cut a solemn figure as he stood in silence beside Mr Chirac’s coffin near the site of Napoleon’s tomb in the courtyard of Les Invalides in Paris.
It was then driven to the Church of Saint-Sulpice for a memorial service attended by all three living former presidents — Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Nicolas Sarkozy (with supermodel wife Carla Bruni) and Francois Hollande.
They were joined by a host of world leaders past and present including Russian president Vladimir Putin, former US president Bill Clinton, ex-German chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Britain was represented by Prince Edward. Other guests in-cluded the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and actress Salma Hayek, with her Gucci tycoon husband Francois-Henri Pinault.
Yesterday was declared a national day of mourning in France and a minute’s silence was held in schools and public buildings across the country. Mr Chirac — the last French head of state to complete two terms in office — was given full military honours. A band played the national anthem, La Marseillaise, before Mr Macron inspected the troops. Mr Chirac’s coffin, covered with the Tricolour, was then carried to the centre of the courtyard before being driven to the memorial service. Later, a private funeral took place at Montparnasse cemetery.
A mainstay of French politics over four decades, Mr Chirac served as Paris mayor, a cabinet minister, prime minister and France’s president from 1995 to 2007. He died last Thursday aged 86.
Known for championing the nation’s sense of its own grandeur, Mr Chirac — once nicknamed Super Liar — is remembered fondly by the public. ‘He was a great man who had fantastic class in all circumstances,’ said mourner Nadine Prevost.