Why Macron changed the colour of France’s Tricolore flag

French President Emmanuel Macron with the French and EU flags
French President Emmanuel Macron with the French and EU flags. Photo: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP
It's a change so subtle it went unnoticed for almost three years. But President Emmanuel Macron ordered a change to the colour of the French flag to find echoes of heroism in France's past.

Keen-eyed observers can see that the French red-white-and-blue tricolour flying above the president’s Elysée Palace, and also placed behind Macron at news conferences and speeches, now has a darker navy blue rather than the previous bright blue.

The navy blue colour marks a return to tradition – it had been then president Valery Giscard d’Estaing who switched the brighter blue in 1976 so that it matched the colour of the European flag.

The change had been made on the flags placed behind Macron at speeches from 2018 and then on those flying from the Elysée and other presidential buildings from 2020, a presidential official, who asked not to be named, told AFP on Monday.

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Announcements from Macron or his ministers almost always feature in the background both the French flag and the EU flag.

The official confirmation comes after French media including the broadcaster Europe1 and Le Parisen newspaper, raised the issue.  

The official said that the navy blue colour “evokes the memory” of the heroes who fought in the French Revolution, the trenches of World War I and in the Resistance during World War II.

It was also suggested that the bleu marine (navy blue) is “more elegant”.

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The change has finally been noticed after being revealed in a book “Elysée Confidential” published this Autumn by journalists, Eliot Blondet and Paul Larrouturou.

They reported that the initiative came from the head of operations at the Elysée Arnaud Jolens, whom the journalists interviewed for their book.

The change cost a symbolic €5,000 and affected only flags on display at the Elysée, the many other French institutions that display the tricolore – from government ministries to town halls and schools – are not required to change their flags.

“Giscard changed this blue for aesthetic reasons during integration with Europe, but the flag that all the presidents took along with them ever since was not the real French flag,” Jolens is quoted as saying.

The Elysée official also pointed out that the flag on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris had always had the navy blue.

France on January 1st takes on the rotating EU presidency under Macron, a pro-European, while he faces re-election battle in April.

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