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Decoration, guests, operation: how the Macron couple changed the Élysée – France

  • 1. Rejuvenation

  • The “first house in France” had changed little under Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande. Upon their arrival, the Macrons, the first official couple to settle there in a decade, decide that the hotel in Évreux needs a serious facelift. Gone are the monumental paintings of heads of state that intimidated visitors on the first floor. They are replaced by works by modern or contemporary artists from the collections of the Mobilier national, such as Soulages, Alechinsky or Delaunay, as are the furniture and carpets.

    The Élysée ballroom. (EPA file photo)

    The most daring renovation is that of the function room (above), the most prestigious room in the palace: exit the empire red and the heavy curtains with pompoms, make way for gray in all its shades. The imposing Gobelins tapestries, some of which had been hanging for 40 years, are disappearing from its walls. Supervised by Brigitte Macron, this project, completed in early 2019, cost 500,000 euros.
    To finance part of this work, the Élysée has launched derivative products (mugs, sneakers, T-shirts, etc.) on the online site.

    Decoration, guests, operation: how the Macron couple changed the Élysée – France

    “Emmanuel Macron used the castle as a setting for his own staging. And he made it the showcase of his ideal France, eternal and modern… at the same time”, summarizes the journalist Julie Marie-Leconte in her book “L’Élysée, Visite Privé” (L’Archipel, March 202).

  • 2. Youtubers and stars

  • The other priority of the Macron couple is to open the doors of the Élysée to the public. However, this ambition will be cut short by the covid crisis. In addition to the very popular Heritage Days, open house operations are organised, such as those of “Made in France” where the most innovative tricolor products are exhibited.

    Decoration, guests, operation: how the Macron couple changed the Élysée – France
    The Music Festival at the Élysée, June 21, 2019. (EPA-EFE)

    Much more breathtaking: the concerts given in the main courtyard on the occasion of the Fête de la Musique. Especially when Kiddy Smile, star of the electro scene, poses on the porch with a T-shirt that reads “Son of an immigrant, black and faggot”. Buzz and controversy guaranteed.

    The codes are also broken with the arrival in 2021 of the star youtubeurs Macfly and Carlito for a “contest of anecdotes” with the president, which ends in the park with a mini-concert of metal.

    Before the covid, the Macron couple welcomed international stars invested in humanitarian or environmental causes, such as Rihanna (below), Bono or Arnold Schwartzenegger, to the palace, which reinforced the notoriety of the young president internationally.

    Decoration, guests, operation: how the Macron couple changed the Élysée – France
    Brigitte Macron and Rihanna, July 26, 2017. (EPA archive photo)

    The Élysée also likes to put the dishes in the big ones for themed receptions: 1,000 young farmers received in February 2018, more than a thousand mayors, 180 starred chefs or 120 creators…

  • 3. Efficiency and secrecy

  • Employing some 800 people, the Élysée is far from the start-up model dear to Macronie, but efforts have been made to make its operation less opaque and more efficient. A reform of its administration was initiated in 2017 and accelerated following the thunderous Alexandre Benalla affair, which highlighted its weaknesses. A director general of services was then appointed to oversee the reorganization into four departments, including the very sensitive security department.
    At the same time, while multiplying official videos on social networks, the Élysée seeks to maintain absolute secrecy behind the scenes of power: ban on ministers speaking to the press after the Council of Ministers, silence instructions for advisers, project – finally aborted – to close the press room in the courtyard of the Élysée…

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