Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Daniel Jouanneau Reveals Protocol Secrets of the Élysée

Daniel Jouanneau Reveals Protocol Secrets of the Élysée

Tuesday, 12 October, 2021 - 06:45
A general view of the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France March 24, 2020. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

"What have you prepared for the breakfast of our chancellor?" assistant of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl asked Daniel Jouanneau, chief of protocol at the Élysée before a breakfast organized by President François Mitterrand for his German guest in the first German-French summit, in the spring of 1993. At the time, Mitterrand chose the city of Beaune in the Côte d'Or department for the meeting.

The French people are used to have a croissant and a coffee for breakfast, but this wasn't enough for Helmut Kohl. Jouanneau, then, entered the first bakery he saw on his way and bought a piece of the popular French apple pie to add it to the chancellor's breakfast. But the assistant intervened saying: "One piece? Bring the whole pie."

The selection of Beaune, located to the east of Paris, was embarrassing to the protocol chief because it lacks decent hotels. The mayor hosted Mitterrand, while the best rooms at Le Cep Hotel were booked for the German chancellor and French Prime Minister Édouard Balladurs. But the shower cabin in Kohl's room was too narrow to accommodate his large body, so the protocol chief had to hire workers to expand the shower's door.

These situations and many more have been revealed in the memoirs of Daniel Jouanneau released this week by Paris-based Plon publication house. Jouanneau, former ambassador of France to Lebanon, also recalls an anecdote from the summer of 1994, during which his country received 11 leaders to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Allies Normandy landings from the World War II. Among the attendees were Queen Elizabeth of Britain and US President Bill Clinton.

The program of the event was planned in details, but Mitterrand was half an hour late. That day, Bill Clinton arrived before his French host, and because it is not appropriate for the former US president to wait for Mitterrand, the protocol chief took Clinton to a side tent where they chatted until the plane of the French president landed.

To address the consequences of Mitterrand's delay, the dinner had been briefed, and Jouanneau had to cut five minutes of the appetizers time, cancel the cheese platters the French usually serve after meals, and directly move to dessert and coffee. However, after the celebration, the chief received a letter from Queen Elizabeth's first assistant in which she denounced the omission of cheese.

When the guests returned to Paris, Clinton was invited to extend his French staycation. He went for a jog every morning in the Tuileries Garden, which caused much headache for the protocol chief and the French secret service members who had to run with him in their suits, ties, and elegant leather shoes.

During a dinner at the Élysée, the guards of the US president spread in all the rooms, and some even requested to go to the kitchen and try the food. After the dinner, Clinton wanted to visit the Louvre with his wife Hillary, and Mitterrand accompanied them in an after midnight tour. The security guards had to secure the place beforehand. When Clinton requested to see the antiquities of King Philip Augustus, the US security guards objected because they didn't find the time to secure that hall. However, Mitterrand ignored them and headed with his guests to it.

During Mitterrand's last years, as his cancer worsened, his trips abroad were scheduled based on his doctor's approval. At the time, he accepted an invitation from the Swedish King and his wife to attend the opening of an exhibition featuring French memorabilia in Stockholm. After the event, the French president felt ill and went to rest in his room, and asked his protocol chief to move a dinner he had to attend that same night back half an hour, so he can return to Paris.

Jouanneau also worked with Jacques Chirac. In his book, he recalls an official trip with the former president to Tokyo during which the Japanese Prime Minister gifted Chirac a collection of photos featuring Sumo champions as he was a big fan of the game.

Editor Picks