Macron's covert change of blue to tricolour French flag 'echoes heroic past'

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It's a change so subtle it went unnoticed for almost three years, but President Emmanuel Macron ordered a deeper colour change to the French flag to symbolise the heroics of France's past.

Keen-eyed observers may notice the red, white, and blue tricolour flying above the Elysée Palace – and also positioned behind Macron in speeches – bears a darker navy blue that's now replaced the previous bright blue.

The navy blue marks a return to tradition. It was former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing who switched to the brighter blue in 1976 so that it matched the colour of the European flag, which displays yellow stars on a blue background.

The change to Pantone Reflex Blue was made on the flags placed behind Macron at speeches from 2018, and updated on those flying atop the Elysée and other presidential buildings from 2020, said a presidential official who asked not to be named.

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.

Big reveal

The change was finally 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. The change cost a symbolic €5,000.

"Giscard changed this blue for aesthetic reasons during our 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.

On 1 January France will takes over the rotating EU presidency under Macron, a pro-European who faces a re-election battle in April.

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