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France

Macron birthday party in royal château riles French republicans

media The Château de Chambord, but not the part where the president stayed on his birthday weekend A. Leboutey/Domaine national de Chambord/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron's celebration of his 40th birthday at a former royal château has come under fire from both left and right this weekend.

Macron, whose birthday is on Thursday, celebrated it this weekend with his wife Brigitte and family members at the Château de Chambord, a huge Renaissance palace built 500 years ago on the orders of King François I.

The party are reportedly not staying in the château itself but in a gamekeeper's lodge, which is rented out for about 1,000 euros a night, a sum the couple are paying from their own pockets.

But that did not stop the choice ruffling some republican feathers.

"Le roi s'amuse," (The King has fun), far-right MP Gilbert Collard tweeted quoting the title of a play by Victor Hugo that was the basis of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto.

"While the French suffer from taxes, insecurity, immigration, Macron celebrates his 40th birthday at Chambord," right-wing former presidential candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Twitter. "Eras go by but the oligarchy remains cut off from the people."

PR strategy questioned

There was criticism on the left, too.

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on a visit to Barcelona, told Le Figaro newspaper he found it an "odd idea".

" I am such a republican that everything connected with royal symbols annoys me, I find it ridiculous."

He nevertheless wished the president a happy birthday.

Macron's "president of the rich" image appears to have been in Green senator Esther Benbassa's mind when she contrasted the party in a Unesco World Heritage site with the "miserable" 1.24 percent rise in the minimum wage.

"There has been better PR," she commented.

The leader of Macron's Republic on the Move party in parliament, Richard Ferrand, dismissed the gripes.

"I also rent holiday cottages with my family," he declared.

Panda visit

On Saturday the presidential couple visited France's first panda cub in Beauval Zoo.

Along with Chinese leader Xi Jinping's wife, Peng Liyuan, Brigitte Macron is the cub's godmother.

On 4 December she announced its name - Yuan Meng, "a dream come true" in Chinese.

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