Elysee plays down opulence of Macron birthday at Loire chateau

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FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcome guests for a lunch at the Elysee Palace as part of the One Planet Summit in Paris

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron welcome guests for a lunch at the Elysee Palace as part of the One Planet Summit in Paris, France, December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron celebrates his 40th birthday this weekend in the grounds of a former royal palace, in what some opponents called another tactless show of wealth.

Rivals have branded former investment banker Macron "president of the rich" for policies such as the scrapping of a wealth tax and cutting housing benefit, moves the president framed as reforms to boost investment and social mobility.

Macron is staying with his wife Brigitte in a guest house close to the Chateau de Chambord, a former royal palace on the Loire that dates back to the 16th century.

His office denied media reports that the celebrations would take place inside the chateau and said the trip was being paid for by the couple.

Left-wing leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who ran against Macron in the presidential election this year, called the chateau stay "ridiculous" for its royal symbolism.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a right-wing politician who also ran for the presidency, said: "Times change but the oligarchy remains detached from the people."

Macron's weekend retreat came as several of his ministers were shown to be millionaires.

Figures released on Friday by a body charged with ensuring financial transparency in politics showed Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud had the largest personal fortune, around 7.5 million euros (6.60 million pounds).

Penicaud, at the forefront of Macron's push to shake up the economy, has been criticised for a gain made on stock options when she was an executive at food giant Danone.

Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot declared personal wealth of over 7 million euros and revealed he owned six cars. The former TV presenter and campaigner has called for France to stop selling petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Career politicians in the government had smaller fortunes, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's declaration showing 1.7 million euros and Public Finances Minister Gerard Darmanin just 48,000 euros.

($1 = 0.8509 euros)


(Reporting by Gus Trompiz, Emmanuel Jarry, Marine Pennetier and Michel Rose; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)