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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

Mourners begin bidding final farewell to late French president Jacques Chirac

Chirac’s coffin was today placed in the Saint-Louis-des-Invalides cathedral in Paris.

france-chirac People queue at the Invalides monument to pay their respects to late French President Jacques Chirac Source: Francois Mori via PA Images

THE FRENCH PUBLIC has begun bidding a final farewell to late former president Jacques Chirac.

Chirac’s death on Thursday, aged 86, prompted a flood of tributes to a man whose high-profile political career spanned three decades capped by 12 years as president from 1995-2007.

However, it also sparked questions about how much this consummate political operator had actually achieved during a long spell in office and again threw the spotlight on a 2011 conviction for graft over his time as Paris mayor.

Nevertheless, a poll in Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed that the French consider him to have been their best president of the modern era, alongside Charles de Gaulle.

Chirac’s coffin was today placed in the Saint-Louis-des-Invalides cathedral at the Invalides memorial complex in central Paris for the French public to pay their last respects.

An initial multi-faith prayer was held around the coffin with close family, including his daughter Claude, although his wife of six decades Bernadette (86) was not present.

Members of the public were then allowed in to view the coffin, draped in a French flag and flanked by a picture of a waving Chirac, with hundreds lining up in a queue that wound around the Invalides complex.

Allowed to enter in small groups, some crossed themselves while others took photos and even selfies.

france-chirac The coffin of late French President Jacques Chirac at the Invalides monument in Paris Source: Francois Mori via PA Images

Putin to attend service

Since his death, the French presidency has opened the doors of the Elysee Palace for anyone wanting to write in condolence books. By the time the doors shut yesterday evening, 5,000 people had done so.

Today’s events will be followed tomorrow by a national day of mourning in France, with a minute of silence to be observed in all public institutions and schools.

At 9am tomorrow, the coffin of Chirac will leave the Invalides, under a military escort through the streets of Paris, before arriving at the Saint-Sulpice church for a final memorial service attended by President Emmanuel Macron.

The Elysee said some 30 heads of state and government are expected to be present, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Former leaders who worked closely with Chirac, notably including German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, will also be there.

Chirac’s successors Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, will attend, the Elysee said.

France’s current political class will all be there, including far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose father and former far-right chief Jean-Marie Le Pen made no secret of his enmity for Chirac.

In a rare public appearance, also present will be the third president of France’s modern fifth republic Valery Giscard d’Estaing (93), who has now outlived his successor Francois Mitterrand who died in 1996, and Chirac.

Chirac will be buried at the Montparnasse cemetery in southern Paris, next to his daughter Laurence who died in 2016 aged 58 following a battle with anorexia.

© AFP 2019  

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