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Monarchy 'strange,' says French foreign minister

Published Sep 15, 2022 9:12 am

Monarchy is a "strange" institution but one that works effectively in Britain, France's foreign minister said Wednesday (Sept. 14), as Queen Elizabeth II's coffin was taken to parliament in London to lie in state.

Catherine Colonna spent nearly three years as Paris' ambassador to London before being appointed as foreign minister earlier this year.

"It's strange," Colonna told AFP, but in Britain "there is something that goes beyond government, institutions, parliament.

"In the case of the United Kingdom—which is not France—the sovereign in part embodies the nation or national unity," she said while on a visit to India.

"Whether you are a monarchist or not, that goes beyond the issue of monarchy. 

"Some do it well, others do it less well, the queen did it in a remarkable way," Colonna said, acknowledging the queen was highly regarded by many French. 

"She lived up to the role. I'll stop there and I won't say 'unlike others,'" she added.

Britain is in the midst of 10 days of mourning and pageantry following the death of the queen, whose 70-year reign encompassed 15 prime ministers.

In contrast, the French revolution in 1789 led to the execution by guillotine of Louis XVI and his Austrian queen Marie-Antoinette, and ushered in an age of transitions to parliamentary democracy in Europe.

Colonna stressed that she took "no lessons" from the British example for France. 

"I serve a republican and secular republic and I am deeply attached to the republic," she said.

Her comments come after new British Prime Minister Liz Truss was last month asked at a campaign event in the Conservative party leadership race whether French president Emmanuel Macron was "friend or foe."

She said she "would judge him on deeds not words. The jury's out," prompting applause from grassroots Tory members.

Asked in turn whether Truss was "friend or foe," Colonna responded: "France is a friend of the United Kingdom and of the British people. 

"It is so sad that the jury was out," she added. "We are friends, and we have to do more together." (AFP)