Emmanuel Macron and Valérie Pécresse are still attracted to Joan of Arc after 600 years

John Everett Millais' 1865 painting of Joan of Arc kneeling and holding a sword
French politicians, from liberal internationalists to far-right nationalists, claim to be Joan of Arc © Alamy

As Emmanuel Macron got ready to launch his 2016 French presidential campaign, in Orleans and with the help of medieval heroine Joan of Arc, he accomplished what we now recognize as a campaign speech.

Like an arrow that found its mark, Joan overthrew the old system, fought injustice and the British, and brought about a “France divided, cut in two and shaken by an endless war,” the future president said at the annual festival for teenage saints.

At the time, Macron was still finance minister in the Socialist government, but the Unified, patriotic and above all victorious campaign of the Maid of Orleans to intensify the siege of England was irresistible thing for a “non-leftist” politician and to break the old French politics.

It was an important symbolic gesture, said Valérie Toureille, Joan’s biographer.

Ahead of the presidential election in April, Macron, who is set to run for re-election, and his political opponents once again cross the country to court voters in the “real France” of the villages. Deserts, towns and industrial zones outside the Paris Ring Road.

Orleans is once again a good place to begin exploring contemporary French concerns. Once a great city that dominated the Loire, Orleans was neither north nor south, neither impoverished nor unusually prosperous.

Serge Grouard, the mayor of 15 of the past 20 years, is scathing about Macron’s performance during the term. A member of the conservative Les Républicains party who chose Valérie Pécresse to defeat Macron and become the first female head of state, Grouard accused the president of dashing hopes among the French that he would transform and modern transform the country.

“He was like a surfer on a big and magnificent wave – and he helped create this wave – but he crashed midway,” Grouard said. The mayor added that France remains “a little Soviet Union” constrained by regulations and hurt by immigration.

The streets of Orleans show that these issues used by the far right and far right to oppose Macron, the liberal internationalist, are not entirely imaginary: homeless people living on the sidewalks, migrants African migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected say they have no intention of leaving. , and those in need lined up to buy food at the Restos du Coeur (“canteen of the heart” founded in the 1980s by comedian Coluche).

Joan of Arc’s very Frenchness is one reason why nationalist politicians in France continue to demand her image 600 years after she was burned at the stake for turning the tide against the British in Hundred Years War.

When Pécresse wanted to present herself in a preliminary contest as future commander-in-chief, she tweeted: “Joan of Arc represents to me France standing tall, resisting aggressors. . . We are not condemned as depressed and chaotic. # Elysee 2022”.

Eric Zemmour, the anti-immigrant TV polemicist who emerged from right-wing talk shows to raise his own bid for the presidency, declare yourself a candidate in a video about nostalgic longing for France’s past, of “the land of Joan of Arc and of Louis XIV, the land of Bonaparte and the General de Gaulle, the land of knights and noblewomen”.

Curiously, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s original French far-right party, now run as Rassemblement National by his less oppressive daughter Marine, has cooled down a bit on St. Joan since the days of Le Pen pere Thousands of people gather to pay their respects every year at her gilded equestrian statue in Paris.

But she still has something for every politician – whether royalists or departing republicans, who reinstated her in the 19th century as a “child”. the people’s daughter”, was persecuted by the Catholic church during her short life.

Toureille said Joan was adopted not only by the French but also by American, British, and now LGBTQ feminists, and now LGBTQ activists because she wears male armor and challenges gender stereotypes.

In France, her star shows no signs of waning. Toureille said: Joan of Arc’s exploits in the Middle Ages were the crystallization of the idea of ​​France and that “in political campaigning, history returns to all the debates”. “She remains a very powerful political icon to this day.”

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