France says adieu to former president Chirac

Some 69 world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and former US President Bill Clinton were among the mourners as France on Monday bid emotional farewell to its former president Jacques Chirac, above, who died on Thursday aged 86, reports say.

After a private family service attended by Chirac’s 86-year-old widow Bernadette Thérèse Marie and a military ceremony presided by President Emmanuel Macron, the coffin was driven from Invalides monument through the streets of Paris to the church of Saint Sulpice which has been holding ceremonies since a fire partly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral in April.

During an hour-long service at Saint Sulpice, Paris archbishop Michel Aupetit said Chirac was a warm person very much loved by the common people of France.

He recalled how Chirac won praise from several world leaders by opposing the invasion of Iraq.

Chirac’s daughter Claude was the chief mourner. Bernadette, did not attend as she was unwell.

After the service, the coffin was taken to Montparnasse cemetery in southern Paris where, as per his wishes, Chirac was buried next to his eldest daughter Laurence who died in 2016 aged 58.

Schools, offices, and the National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in Chirac’s memory at 3 pm local time.

Chirac’s political career stretched through 40 years of which he served 12 years as president from 1995 to 2007.

Putin, who too opposed the Iraq invasion, described Chirac in a recent newspaper interview as the world leader who had impressed him the most.

He called him a true intellectual, a level-headed man and a very interesting person.

Chirac was the first French president to acknowledge the country’s role in the deportation of Jews during World War II.  

He was among the very few political leaders who gave an early warning to the world about the risk of climate change.

Roselyne Bachelot, who worked as minister with Chirac, said he had a great sense of humour and recalled a joke he made during an official visit to London.

He was sitting in an open-top carriage alongside Queen Elizabeth, when the horse in front of them suddenly broke wind.

As an embarrassed British monarch apologised to him, Chirac said: “It doesn’t matter, I thought it was the horse.”