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France's gendarmes get first female general

media French Interior Minister Manuel Valls and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira Reuters/Stringer

France’s government has appointed the first-ever female general gendarme. Isabelle Guion de Méritens, 50, will take command of the marine gendarmes, who patrol the coastline and provide security and naval installations on land.

The gendarmerie maritime has “never had a woman in such a high position in seven centuries of existence”, government spokeperson Najat Vallaud-Belkadem announced on Wednesday, claiming that the appointment was a ‘historic decision”.

The gendarmerie, one of France’s most famous state institutions, is a hybrid oarganisation made up of police who have military status.

Until 2009 they came under the Ministry of Defence but are now placed under the Interior Ministry, along with the regular police force.

Isabelle Guion de Méritens has scored several firsts during her career – first female gendarme officer trained at the St Cyr academy, first woman to become a colonel, first commander of section - in the Yvelines, near Paris.

The gendarmerie has about 50 generals.

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