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France: The "President's" Tricolor flag with a narrow white stripe

Last modified: 2014-04-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: president | mitterrand (francois) | chirac (jacques) | sarkozy (nicolas) |
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[Weird Presidential Standard]

The French flag with a narrow white stripe - Image by Jorge Candeias, 11 February 1998

See also:

Origin of the flag

A French Tricolor flag with a narrow white stripe (photo) has been regularly shown behind President Jacques Chirac during official events. This flag seems to have been already used by François Mitterrand and is still used by Nicolas Sarkozy.

Together with my brother I roamed through Paris the past two days, and as I always do, I went and bought the national flag. With some help, we managed to find what must be the most authoritative shop in Paris, who advertise that they have among their clientèle La Présidence de la République. This appeared to us to be the perfect place to ask about the flag with the narrow white stripe as well.
On visiting Abeille Drapeaux, we asked about the flag with the narrow white stripe, and they told us they were in fact the company that supplied it. It was ordered for usage in front of television cameras only, and its design is intended to show all three colours in shots of the president, rather than showing just blue and white, while keeping the same general dimensions.

Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 7 June 2008

Use of the flag by François Hollande (2012-)

The flag is sill used by President François Hollande (photo).

Ivan Sache, 17 January 2014

Use of the flag by Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012)

On the official website of the French Presidency, you can watch several videos of the President's speeches. On 3 March 2008, the featured video showed the President during his official visit in South Africa. The flag behind the President has a narrow white stripe.
On the same page, you can see the official photograph of the President, with the European Union and French flags, the latter flag having a normal white stripe.

In the Discours Monde (Speeches Worldwide) section of the website, you can see the President in N'Djamena (Chad), Doha (Qatar), Constantine (Algeria), Beijing (China), Marrakech (Morocco) and Moscow (Russia), with the narrow-striped flag. However, in Libreville (Gabon, 27 July 2007) and Dakar (26 July 2007), the white stripe has a normal size.
The same narrow-striped flag can be seen in several videos of the Discours France (Speeches in France) section, too.

The Élyséethèque is introduced with a photo of the President standing near an obviously narrowed-stripe flag, from which we can deduce that the narrow-striped flag is the national flag mostly used "by" the President during his official speeches. This cannot be considered as a personal flag since it represents France and not the President, and such a flag is not prescribed by any Law, Decree or Regulation.

Ivan Sache, 3 March 2008

Use of the flag by Jacques Chirac (1995-2007)

The Tricolor flag with the narrow stripe can be seen on a color picture published in the scientific magazine La Recherche, # 342 (May 2000). The picture was taken during the 10th World Conference on AIDS held in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) in December 1997.

In February 1998, Jacques Chirac went to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica, short after the murder of Préfet Claude Erignac. He gave there an official speech, as usual standing by flags of the European Union and France. Nothing worth being noted, but... Jorge Candeias noticed that the French flag had a narrow white stripe.
On 26 March 1999, this very same flag was highlighted in a Letter to the Editor by Jean Nicolas, published in the daily newspaper Le Pays (Belfort release). The letter can be translated into English as follows:

I have been having my doubts for years under the Presidency of François Mitterrand; his successor, Jacques Chirac, confirmed my doubts. Indeed, our national emblem, born during the Revolution, was modified on the sly and nobody reacted. Our flag shall be made of three vertical blue, white and red stripes of equal size, which is no longer the case, at least for the flag of Élysée. The white stripe was reduced by half under the Presidency of François Mitterrand, and his successor seems to put up with this flag. How can a man, even if he is the President of the Republic, assume the right of changing our flag? I know well that white symbolizes royalty and that by "Republicanism" François Mitterrand wanted to make a lasting impression, but there are probably texts, regulations and maybe a Law defining precisely our emblem. I know well that today the "Prince" sometimes decides on his own, against the course of history. It is great time to come back to a more Republican conception of our emblem and one of our Deputees or our Senators should ask a question to the Government on this matter.

The flag has regularly been seen behind Jacques Chirac, always during official ceremonies. This is therefore a flag used indoor behind Jacques Chirac and not the flag hoisted over the Presidential Palace of Élysée as the text quoted above seems to indicate it.

A picture in the magazine Armées d'Aujourd'hui (Today's Armed Forces), sponsored by the Ministry of Defense, shows Jacques Chirac visiting on 25 November 2000 the peace-keeping troops stationed in Mitrovica (Kosovo).
The French Tricolor has the white stripe clearly narrower than the two others.

It was suggested that this flag could be the new flag of the President of the Republic. Such a change is highly improbable. First, the Presidency would probably have sent some official communiqué about such a change, and at least Armand du Payrat, the Editor of Album des Pavillons [pay00], would have been informed. Second, the flag placed in such official instances behind the President has always been until now the national flag of France, not the President's personal standard.
It was also suggested that a (huge) manufacturer's mistake was initially not noticed and that the faultive flag continued to be in use until now without causing trouble.
In April 2002, Franciae Vexillae [frv] suggested that: "These proportions were, apparently, calculated to look equal on a TV screen when the President is filmed in close shot."

Ivan Sache, 5 September 2002

On 23 May 2002, Senator Jean-Louis Masson asked the following question (as a written question submitted to Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of National Defense) : "Should the tricolore flag have its three stripes of equal dimensions ?" Furthermore, he asked which proportions the stripes should have if not equal. The question was not answered. Masson asked it again on 11 July and got an answer on 22 August (Senate Official Gazette, 22 August 2002, p. 1864).
The answer doesn't give any clue on the weird flag, rather implying thatsuch a flag should not exist:

Ordered by the Law of 27 Pluviôse of the Year II, the national flag was made of three colours disposed in three equal stripes, placed vertically. Article 2 of the Constitution of 1946 quoted these dispositions stating that the "national emblem is the tricolore blue, white, red flag with three vertical stripes of equal dimensions. Article 2 of the Constitution of the 4 October 1958 also states that the tricolore blue, white, red flag is the national emblem of France, but does not give any precision about the width of each stripe; therefore, the former dispositions should be considered as unchanged.
It should be added, however, that the use is different in the Navy. Initially, the Law of 27 Pluviôse of the Year II stated that the proportions of the stripes of the jack and ordinary ensigns should follow the custom and that the masthead pennant should be made of three stripes "1/5th blue, 1/5th white, and 3/5th red". This unequal width of the stripes for the ensign and the masthead pennant was confirmed in the 19th century. A plate dated 1836 prescribes the following widths, which are still in force: for the ensign, blue 30%, white 33%, red 37%; for the pennant, blue 20%, white 20%, red 60%.

Olivier Touzeau, 29 September 2002

On 14 January 2003, the German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder met the French Président de la République Jacques Chirac in Paris. They presented together their new project for Europe. Unsurprisingly, the French tricolor flag placed behind the speakers, along with the German national flag and the European Union flag, had its usual narrow white stripe.
The very same flag was seen once again behind Jacques Chirac during the Franco-British Summit hold in Le Touquet on 4 February 2003

Ivan Sache, 15 January 2003

A photo showing Jacques Chirac, published in the Economia (economy) supplement to the Público newspaper on 28 March 2005, shows an interesting coexistence of the two current "versions" of the French national flag: the flag representation in the podium is normal and the actual flag behind Chirac is the one with narrow middle stripe.

Jorge Candeias, 1 June 2005

Use of the flag by François Mitterrand (1981-1995)

The very same flag with thenarrow white stripe appears in the TV program Mots croisés, showing images of President François Mitterrand interviewed by Jean-Pierre Elkabbach in 1994.

Marin Montagnon, 5 March 2005