Special envoy to Villers-Cotterêts
More than a year late in the work, and an inauguration postponed several times: the opening of the Cité internationale de la langue française in Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne), Monday, was a relief for its instigators, gathered under a pouring rain. Proof that the subject interests and brings people together, nearly 500 international guests and journalists were present, RFI, France Télévision and TV5 monde having installed duplexes to cover the event.
“I have waited a long time for this moment,” said the President of the Republic, after having extensively visited the rooms of this new city entirely dedicated to the history and construction of French. At the foot of the impeccably restored facade of the Renaissance castle, he celebrated, in a long speech, “a language symbol of national unity, freedom and universalism”. Practiced by 320 million speakers in the world, “one and indivisible”, it is that “of Corneille, of Aimé Césaire, of Baudelaire but also of slam, and of all schoolchildren”.
Certainly, French “has always been an object of controversy and debate, which is a sign of good health,” the president added. The same day, the Senate was preparing to debate and then vote on a bill aimed at banning inclusive writing, which is trying to make headway among the younger generation. In the name of the unity of the language, and to the loud applause of the audience, the president approved the parliamentary proposal: “We must not give in to the spirit of the times. In our language, the masculine makes the neuter, we do not need to add periods in the middle of words,” he said. As for those, led by Jean-Marie Rouart, who accuse him of excessive use of English in his speeches, the president defended himself by arguing that "withdrawal is a false idea". “We steal and give words to others, including 30,000 in English,” he defended. The French language is both “fixed and moving, mixed and unified”, a “will”, of which Villers-Cotterêts will be one of the centers.
Built by François I, the castle and its outbuildings (23,000 square meters) were abandoned when the candidate Macron, who defined himself on Monday as "a child of Picardy", visited there in March 2017 .In the process, during a speech given in Reims, Emmanuel Macron promised to make it a place dedicated to French and the Francophonie. A choice also dictated by “the economic and social difficulties of the territory”, had specified the Élysée. The town hall has been run since 2014 by Franck Briffaut, elected by the National Rally, who was in the front row on Monday. And in Aisne, Marine Le Pen came well ahead in both rounds of the last presidential election.
Today, this “unique place of its kind”, made up of a museum, an auditorium, a café, and artist residences, wants to welcome 200,000 visitors per year. Emmanuel Macron considers it his major cultural project and assures that it is “the first that a President of the Republic has opened outside of Paris”.
If Paul Rondin, director of the City, has promised events, concerts, readings in this castle which will be open to this city of 10,000 inhabitants, the President of the Republic wants several figures to be honored there, starting with the teachers . “I have a thought for Dominique Bernard, who was cowardly murdered because he defended his students,” the president said. Defending against who? and against what? we won't know any more, as Emmanuel Macron seemed keen not to put the major fractures in French society on the table. French may well be a factor of unity in the world, "a cement in the face of hatred and divisions which want to send everyone back to their divisions", it clearly cannot be a bulwark against extremism.
“It was a crazy dream to want to bring this castle back to life. You achieved it,” concluded the president before going to a Republican banquet, with elected officials and institutions.