July 29, 2021

Between tributes and veiled messages, Emmanuel Macron presented the Legion of Honor to Edouard Philippe

Emmanuel Macron had set an appointment with his former Prime Minister at the Elysee Palace this Tuesday, in order to present him with the cross of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. The Head of State took the opportunity to slip a few words, obviously very political in tone.

Edouard Philippe at the Elysee Palace: an image as familiar as it is explosive insofar as Jean Castex replaced him at Matignon for 11 months already. But if Edouard Philippe had an appointment at the “Castle” this Tuesday, it was not, of course, to resume his task with the Head of State. The latter had invited him to present him with the medal of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor.

Emmanuel Macron slipped a few words about the recipient. Common memories, tributes, but also ironies and (barely) veiled messages passed through his speech, drawing a very political picture. Photos have also filtered from the ceremony.

Edouard Philippe with his rosette this Tuesday.
Edouard Philippe with his rosette this Tuesday. © Transmitted by one of the participants to BFMTV

An air of “family celebration”

“One has the impression of being at a family celebration with people who have fraternal or filial affection for you,” notably launched the President of the Republic.

He then supported the tribute to his former head of government: “We have formed a harmonious, complementary team, imbued with friendship, which has been useful to the French”.

A concord apparently on the verge of frank camaraderie which, according to the President of the Republic, “did not prevent three years of reform of action and especially of harmony”, obviously the watchword of this decision. word.

Hailing Edouard Philippe’s mentor, Alain Juppé, Emmanuel Macron again declared, this time to his ex-Prime Minister: “In May 2017 we did not know each other but I was able to appreciate your constant vigilance and flexible rigor “. He also praised a “permanent loyalty, a vision and a common will”.

Psychoanalysis around a saber

Since Edouard Philippe left the executive, he has returned to his town hall in Le Havre. If he obviously retains national ambitions away from his Norman office, these do not seem immediate and he has never stood up as a competitor against the President of the Republic for 2022.

By removing Matignon from him, Emmanuel Macron even asked him to work on the reconstruction of the majority in view of this deadline. He wanted to remind him of his mission on Tuesday. “You bring a lot but you will bring a lot” (to the presidential majority), he predicted.

Emmanuel Macron also alluded to the saber that followed Edouard Philippe from the Palace of the Republic to an official building, and in particular from the rue de Varenne in Paris to the Place de l’Hotel de Ville in Le Havre. This is a blade that he removed from his military service as a horse artillery officer. Guessing the possible interpretations, Emmanuel Macron tried to cut psychoanalysis short: “It would be wrong to see it as a warlike object, it is rather to see the force of the responsibility”.

A tradition since 2008

Did the head of state want to send a political postcard urbi et orbi, push Edouard Philippe to renew the homage-liege on the eve of the next presidential election through this decoration ceremony? To tell the truth, this is less due to the desiderata of the Elysee than to institutions. Indeed, the Prime Minister automatically receives the medal of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, and in principle from the hands of the Grand Master of this national order, that is to say from the President of the Republic. It was Nicolas Sarkozy who had decided in 2008.

There was, however, one condition slipped: that the former resident of Matignon had led the government for at least two years. A clause which effectively excluded his former colleague and rival, Dominique de Villepin, Prime Minister for exactly one year, eleven months and 16 days.

Robin Verner with Agathe Lambret