Between Le Diable And the Deep Blue

France has got the blues — the deeper blues, to be precise — and for quite some time now. As Europe 1 radio, which broke the story 16 months after the event took place, reported this week, the president’s office decided to darken the blue in the French tricolour to look ‘more elegant’ as well as to ‘reconnect with a symbol of the French Revolution’.

That’s what Emmanuel Macron’s operations director, in consultation with naval officers, apparently thought. So, voilà! Before you can say ‘Central Vista’, Les bleu has got le plus blus. But before you think it’s a radical move, the change in shade is actually a conservative one, since it is actually a return, not a departure, to tradition.

President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, a staunch supporter of the EU, lightened the darker blue of the French flag in the 1970s to match with the EU flag’s lighter ‘Marian blue’, the Virgin Mary’s official colour since the 5th century. Before that, it was navy blue, when the flag became a symbol of the 1789-99 French Revolution.

But as we all know, aesthetic differences give birth to political suspicions. And the French are no exception, with some — a bit late in the day — finding the ominous change in shade a message of France changing its colour vis-à-vis its relations to the EU. Now, just imagine if there was a hint of saffron in the tricolore.


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