Thousands flocked to the Elysee Palace to pay tribute to former French President Jacques Chirac last night, as the Tricolore flew at half mast and the Eiffel Tower fell into darkness after he died aged 86.
Chirac, who twice served as Prime Minister and the Mayor of Paris before becoming leader, died yesterday morning surrounded by his family.
A minute’s silence was held in the French National Assembly soon after, as images of the late statesman were projected onto the Hotel de Ville in Paris.
As the day went on mourners arrived at his Parisian home to lay flowers, before thousands queued to write tributes in a condolence book at the Presidential Palace.
President Emmanuel Macron announced a national day of mourning will take place on Monday before paying an emotional tribute.
The Eiffel Tower was plunged into darkness from 7pm as French politicians past and present described him as a ‘great Frenchman’ who ’embodied France’.
Former French President Jacques Chirac (pictured in 2007, the year he left office) died at the age of 86 ‘surrounded by his family’, his son-in-law revealed yesterday
Thousands queued to write tributes in a condolence book at the Presidential Eylsee Palace in Paris, which was placed in front of an image of him and protected by guards
Lights off on the Eiffel Tower in memory of France’s deceased ex-President Jacques Chirac
Parisians were queuing well into the evening to sign a condolences book at the Presidential Palace
President Emmanuel Macron announced a national day of mourning will take place on Monday before paying an emotional tribute
People walk on Paris’ city hall square yesterday where a giant screen displayed pictures of late former French President Jacques Chirac
People are seen queuing at the Elysee Palace in Paris to offer their condolences
The French national flag flying at half-mast on the Elysee Palace in memory of Jacques Chirac before nightfall in Paris yesterday
Macron praised Chirac for leading an ‘independent and proud France, capable of rising up against an unjustified military intervention’.
He was later seen arriving with wife Brigitte at Chriac’s former home and being greeted by his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux.
Despite his staunch opposition to the Iraq War, which put him at loggerheads with the former PM, Tony Blair hailed Chirac as ‘a towering figure in French and European politics over many decades.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: ‘Jacques Chirac was a formidable political leader who shaped the destiny of his nation in a career that spanned four decades. His loss will be felt throughout France, across the generations.’
He added in French: ‘My sincere condolences to his family, his friends and the French people.’
Macron said the door to the Elysee Palace would remain open for people to write in the condolence book, which was placed in front of a large picture of Chirac.
Parisians queued around the block to pay tribute to Chirac at the Elysee Palace
French honor guards stand next to a Jacques Chirac’s portrait as people sign condolence registers at the Elysee Presidential Palace yesterday
A woman signs the book of condolences in front of Paris city hall to pay tribute to late former French President Jacques Chirac in Paris
Parisians are pictured writing in condolence books placed in front of a portrait of Chirac
Despite the long queue at the Elysee, many took their time to write long tributes
People gather near the apartment of the late French former president Jacques Chirac on Rue de Tournon, in Paris yesterday
Emotional supporters gather near the apartment of the late French former president Jacques Chirac yesterday
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, arrives at the home of Jacques Chirac to pay tribute to him yesterday evening
Former French president Jacques Chirac’s son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux (left) welcomes Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron (right) as they arrive at the home of Chirac
Maryvonne Pinault and French CEO of luxury group Kering Francois-Henri Pinault leave the apartment of the late French former president Jacques Chirac
Despite the long queue, many took their time to write long tributes.
Among them was 23-year-old engineer Pierre Etienne, who called Chirac ‘a fervent defender of Franco-African relations’.
‘My admiration and tenderness for the last of the great presidents,’ wrote another well-wisher.
Chirac’s death was announced by his son-in-law Frederic Salat-Baroux yesterday morning.
The former leader had suffered a series of heart problems in recent years.
In a long career on the French right, Chirac was twice Prime Minister of France before serving as head of state from 1995 to 2007.
His opposition to the Iraq War put him at loggerheads with George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
French police forces are deployed outside the apartment of the late French former president Jacques Chirac
People watch former President Jacques Chirac on a giant screen set up at the Paris town hall following his death
Lights on the Eiffel Tower turned off in memory of Jacques Chirac who served two consecutive presidential terms from 1995 through 2007
As President he made a historic apology for France’s role in the Holocaust but his term was also marked by riots and a stinging defeat over EU integration.
He also had a reputation as a womaniser and philanderer who repeatedly cheated on his long-suffering wife Bernadette during their 63 years of marriage.
His reputed partners included Italian sex symbol Claudia Cardinale and there were rumours about a series of relationships with journalists and politicians.
Chirac was also known for a love of fine living, revelling in the trappings of power including luxury trips abroad and life at the presidential palace.
After leaving office, Chirac was found guilty of corruption dating back to his time as mayor of Paris and given a two-year suspended prison sentence.
His successors both paid tribute today, Nicolas Sarkozy declaring that ‘a part of my life has disappeared’ while Francois Hollande said France was ‘losing a statesman’.
People sign a book of condolence for former French President Jacques Chirac at The Elysee Palace
A notorious philanderer who once confessed: ‘I was never averse to women… but I never overdid it’
Chirac married Bernadette in 1956 and they remained married for the rest of his life despite his serial philandering. They had two children.
Tall and dapper, Chirac’s charming style would work wonders on the campaign trail, exuding warmth when kissing babies and enjoying Western movies and beer.
Handsome, and with the powerful physique of the rugby player he was in his youth, his slicked-back hair and ski-slope nose were favourites of cartoonists.
Despite his reputed success with women, his office staff nicknamed him ‘Mr Three Minutes, shower included’, according to a book published by his chauffeur.
As mayor of Paris in the 1980s, he reputedly ordered the council to buy a coach fitted out with a bedroom so he could meet his lovers whilst on official engagements.
Jacques Chirac in 2013 with his wife Bernadette, whom he married in 1956 – a marriage which lasted until his death despite his serial philandering
In 1997, he could not be reached for several hours to be told that Diana, Princess of Wales had been involved in what proved to be a fatal a car crash in Paris.
It was later rumoured that he had been sleeping with Claudia Cardinale, the Italian actress and sex symbol, at the time.
Chirac was widely reported to have had an affair with political correspondent and married mother-of-one Jacqueline Chabridon in the 1970s, when he was Prime Minister.
There were even claims that Chirac considered putting his political career in jeopardy by divorcing Bernadette to be with Chabridon.
Chirac with Claudia Cardinale. It was rumoured that the President was with the Italian sex symbol when news broke of Princess Diana’s car crash
Journalist Jacqueline Chabridon (pictured in 2012) is widely rumoured to have had a relationship with Chirac in the 1970s when he was Prime Minister
Chirac was close to presidential adviser Marie-France Garaud (pictured) in the 1970s and his former chauffeur claimed there was an ‘amorous’ relationship between them
When Chirac was PM in the 1980s there were claims he would enter a meeting ‘holding hands’ with health minister Michele Barzach (pictured)
Bernadette herself once said she had considered leaving her husband and pleaded with him to stop, saying: ‘Napoleon started to lose everything the day that he abandoned Josephine.’
He admitted he still referred to his wife using the formal ‘vous’ rather than the familiar ‘tu’.
In the 1970s, Chirac took presidential advisor Marie-France Garaud, widely viewed as the most influential woman in France, under his wing.
The chauffeur’s book in 2001 claimed that there was an ‘amorous’ relationship between them. She later ran for President herself.
When Chirac was PM in the 1980s there were claims he would enter a meeting ‘holding hands’ with health minister Michele Barzach.
Further rumours surrounded Chirac and journalist Elisabeth Friederich in the early 1990s.
There was outrage when the pair were pictured on a beach holiday together in Mauritius, a trip allegedly paid for with public funds.
Chirac said just before leaving office: ‘There have been women I have loved a lot, as discreetly as possible.’
He also said: ‘I was never averse to women. But I never overdid it either.’ Chirac remained a devout Roman Catholic throughout his life.
The Chiracs also adopted Ahn Dao Taxel, a boat person refugee from Vietnam who arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in 1979, when Mr Chirac told her: ‘You are coming home with us’.
Chirac and his wife Bernadette at a Christmas tree party at the Elysee Palace in 2004
Jacques Chirac talks with his daughter Laurence aboard a plane in 1981, when he made the first of two unsuccessful attempts at the French presidency in that year’s election
Chirac on holiday with his family in 1995, the year he was elected President at the third attempt after defeats in the 1981 and 1988 elections
Declining health of Jacques Chirac who suffered a stroke in office and was even savaged by his dog
Chirac was a former chain smoker and openly enjoyed the luxuries of power during his long career.
His health had started to decline in office, suffering a mysterious blood vessel problem in 2005 that proved to be a stroke. He had a pacemaker fitted in 2008.
In a bizarre episode in 2009, he was taken to hospital after he was savaged by his own dog which was being treated with anti-depressants.
Chirac was ‘bitten badly’ after the animal went for him ‘for no apparent reason’, the former President’s wife recalled.
The dog had apparently struggled to adapt to life away from the presidential Elysee Palace and later had to be given away.
Chirac was excused from attending his 2011 trial on health grounds after medics said he was suffering from neurological problems which affected his memory.
He was found guilty of channelling public money into phantom jobs for political cronies when he was mayor of Paris, but was not sent to prison, partly on health grounds.
The former President also had kidney surgery in 2013 had also been admitted to the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris for a pulmonary infection on three occasions after leaving office.
In his last years he became visibly weak and walked with a cane at a November 2014 award ceremony of his foundation, which supports peace projects. It has not yet been revealed how he died.
Chirac in Paris in 2014. He had suffered a series of health problems in recent years
Jacques and Bernadette Chirac on holiday in 1995, the year he was elected President of France
Chirac in 1995 with his daughter Claude, who became his adviser and spokeswoman when her father was elected to the presidency that year
Chirac with the Queen following a state banquet at Windsor Castle in November 2004
Chirac with then-U.S. President George W. Bush at a D-Day wreath laying ceremony in 2004. The Frenchman’s opposition to the Iraq War weakened their relationship
Tributes from left and right as France mourns ‘a statesman but also a friend’
Cries of shock rang out in the National Assembly as the legislature’s president Richard Ferrand announced the news that Chirac had died today.
Ferrand, a member of Emmanuel Macron’s party, called for a minute’s silence and said: ‘Jacques Chirac is part of the history of France.’
He said Chirac left behind a ‘a France that was like him – complex, sometimes crossed by contradictions and always motivated by an unbridled Republican passion.’
Mourners brought flowers and police set up barricades around his Paris residence today.
Chirac’s immediate successor Nicolas Sarkozy lauded Chirac as a mentor who ‘never gave an inch on our independence, nor on his deep commitment to Europe.’
‘A part of my life has disappeared today,’ Sarkozy said in a statement, adding that Chirac ’embodied a France faithful to its universal values.’
Sarkozy’s Socialist successor Francois Hollande tweeted: ‘The French, regardless of their convictions, are losing today a statesman, but also a friend.’
Chirac gets out of a car, cigarette in hand, in the 1960s when his political rise began while Charles de Gaulle was still President of France
Current President Emmanuel Macron has cancelled a public engagement and is expected to make a televised address later on Thursday.
Chirac earned tributes even from the far left and far right today.
The former President ‘loved France more than those who came after,’ said far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen said he was ‘capable of opposing madness and the war in Iraq’.
Meanwhile German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was Chirac’s counterpart as head of government from 2005 to 2007, called him an ‘oustanding partner and friend’.
Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder, who joined Chirac in opposing the Iraq War, said ‘it was clear to him that Europe can only work well when Germany and France agree’.
French police stand guard as flowers are delivered to the home of the late French president Jacques Chirac in Rue Tournon in Paris
Tony Blair, with whom he clashed over Iraq, said: ‘He was a towering figure in French and European politics over many decades.
‘Whatever our differences from time to time, he was always unfailingly kind, generous and personally supportive.’
Current PM Boris Johnson offered his condolences in French, adding that Mr Chirac was a ‘formidable political leader who shaped the destiny of his nation in a career that spanned four decades’.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission and former Luxembourg prime minister, said he was ‘moved and devastated’ to learn the news.
‘Europe is not only losing a great statesman, but the president is losing a great friend,’ he said in a statement.
Vladimir Putin described Chirac as a ‘wise and far-sighted statesman’ and also paid tribute to ‘his intellect and huge knowledge’
French police block the street where former French President Jacques Chirac was living in Paris after news of his death broke today
Early life of a Communist agitator who later became a right-wing standard-bearer
Born in Paris in November 1932, Chirac was expelled from school for shooting paper wads at a teacher.
As a young man, Chirac had joined the French Communist Party and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, though he would later be a standard-bearer for the right.
He sold the Communist daily L’Humanite on the streets for a brief time.
Mr Chirac travelled to the United States as a young man, and as president he fondly remembered hitchhiking across the country.
He worked as a fork-lift operator in St Louis and a soda jerk at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant while attending summer school at Harvard University.
Mr Chirac served in Algeria during the independence war, which France lost, and enrolled at France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration, the elite training ground for the French political class.
In 1956 he married Bernadette Chodron de Courcel, the niece of a former de Gaulle aide and herself involved in local politics in the farming region of Correze.
A young Jacques Chirac is pictured aged 10. As a young man he joined the Communist Party but he later became a standard-bearer for the French right
Chirac as French Prime Minister in 1975 with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping
A younger Jacques Chirac in 1975, when he was Prime Minister of France, with Margaret Thatcher who was then Leader of the Opposition in Britain
Political rise of ‘Chameleon Bonaparte’ who became Prime Minister aged 41
Chirac’s long career in national politics began in the 1960s when he worked under President and former Resistance hero Charles de Gaulle.
He was nicknamed ‘Le Bulldozer’ early in his career for his determination and ambition.
His changing political views also earned him nicknames such as Chameleon Bonaparte and the Weathervane.
Within five years, Chirac was a junior minister and had secured a parliamentary seat in the central Correze region.
When students and unions took to the streets of Paris in the May 1968 revolt, he helped negotiate a truce that avoided major bloodshed.
Working his way up the ladder, he became became Prime Minister in 1974 – a subordinate position in France – under President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.
A personality clash with Giscard led Chirac to resign, but he quickly assumed the presidency of the conservative political party he refounded as the Rally for the Republic.
He became mayor of Paris in 1977 and used the highly visible office as a power base for the next 18 years.
Chirac returned as Prime Minister in 1986 in an uncomfortable arrangement with President Francois Mitterrand of the opposing Socialist Party.
That arrangement ended when Chirac, who had already tried for the presidency once in 1981, lost the 1988 election to Mitterrand.
Chirac is greeted by Sumo wrestlers on a visit to Japan in November 1996 during his first term as President of France
Chirac (centre) with U.S. President Bill Clinton and German leader Helmut Kohl in 1995
Chirac meets former South African leader Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg in September 2002, the year Chirac won re-election as French President
1995-2002: Holocaust apology, nuclear row and election blunder in Chirac’s first term as President
Chirac was finally elected head of state at the third attempt in 1995 when Mitterrand finally stood down.
Promising to heal the ‘social fracture’, he defeated Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin in the second round of the 1995 election.
In what was perhaps his finest hour, Chirac acknowledged France’s active role in deporting Jews to extermination camps during the Nazi occupation in World War II.
‘Yes, the criminal folly of the occupiers was seconded by the French, by the French state,’ he declared, rejecting the myth of his nation’s innocence in the Holocaust.
More controversially, he restarted French nuclear tests in 1995, the first since the end of the Cold War, earning a rebuke from Washington.
The tests in French Polynesia remain a sensitive issue with Paris forced to pay out compensation to residents who suffered from the tests.
Chirac ended compulsory military service and started moves that reintegrated France into the NATO defence alliance, reversing a policy set in the 1960s.
His presidency was derailed when he unnecessarily called a parliamentary election in 1997 and lost it, forcing him to share power with the Socialists again.
In 2000 he had a lucky escape from a Concorde air disaster which killed 113 people, when the stricken plane barely missed Chirac’s Boeing jet on the runway at Charles de Gaulle airport.
Chirac in 1999 with then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin (centre) and then-Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder in Istanbul
Chirac in November 1998 with Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, who also died this month
Chirac with the Queen at a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in France on the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004
2002-07: A second term marked by riots and opposition to the war in Iraq
In 2002 he had an easy ride to a second term when far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen unexpectedly reached the final round.
In a rare show of unity, the moderate right and the left united behind Chirac, and he crushed Le Pen with 82 per cent of the vote in the runoff.
Later that year he was the subject of an assassination attempt when an extreme right militant shot at him – and missed – during a Bastille Day parade.
His outspoken opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 rocked France’s relations with Washington and weakened the Atlantic alliance.
Insisted the action in Iraq was illegal, Chirac believed it would cause chaos in the region and threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution that would have authorised the invasion.
Former French leader Jacques Chirac and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair are pictured in Paris in 2006. They were at odds over the Iraq War
Angry Americans poured Bordeaux wine into the gutter and restaurants renamed French fries ‘freedom fries’ in retaliation.
At home his authority was badly weakened by France’s ‘No’ vote in a European Constitution referendum in 2005, angering the pro-EU Chirac.
‘If you want to shoot yourself in the foot, do it, but after don’t complain,’ he raged at his own electorate after the humiliating defeat.
The same year he was outmanoeuvred by Tony Blair in the bidding for the 2012 Olympics, which London won at the expense of Paris.
Fuming at Britain, he said: ‘You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.’
The Queen, Jacques Chirac, Bernadette Chirac, George W. Bush and Laura Bush at a ceremony in 2004. Chirac blasted British food and clashed with Britain and America over Iraq
Despite promising to heal the ‘social fracture’, Chirac failed to defuse tensions between police and minority youths that exploded into riots across France in 2005.
After the presidential term was shortened from seven years to five, he left office in 2007, replaced by Nicolas Sarkozy.
By then his popularity was low and his critics accused him of spending his political energy on staying in power rather than achieving change.
Chirac had once been Sarkozy’s mentor but the pair later fell out, among other things over Sarkozy’s close relationship – and rumoured affair – with Chirac’s daughter, Claude.
Although Sarkozy returned to a prominent role as a minister in Chirac’s government, the mistrust remained, with the former protege reportedly calling Chirac a ‘do-nothing king.’
After leaving the Elysee in 2007, the Chiracs lived a quiet life on Paris’s Quai Voltaire in an apartment loaned by Lebanon’s Hariri family, and worked on his memoirs.
In 2012 one of his aides claimed he was planning to vote for Sarkozy’s challenger Francois Hollande in that year’s election.
It was never confirmed whether he did, as Bernadette cast the vote by proxy in place of the ailing former President.
Bernadette Chirac remained a confidant of Sarkozy and supported his doomed bid to return to the presidency in 2017.
Tony Blair, Cherie Blair, Bernadette Chirac and Jacques Chirac in Downing Street in 2004
Chirac waves from a window on a visit to Blomberg in Germany in 2005. That year he suffered a stinging defeat over the ill-fated European Constitution
Margaret Thatcher the ‘housewife’ and an attack on British food: Jacques Chirac in quotes
The art of diplomacy
‘What more does this housewife want from me? My balls on a plate?’
1988, caught on a microphone during tense European negotiations with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
‘Today, there is an overdose … Having Spaniards, Poles and Portuguese people working here creates fewer problems than having Muslims and blacks.’
1991, in a speech on immigration policy to his centre-right party.
‘France, the country of light and of human rights, land of welcome and asylum, France on that day did something which cannot be repaired… it delivered those who were under its protection to their executioners.’
1995, becoming the first French president to admit the country’s responsibility for the round-up of Jews sent to Nazi death camps during World War II.
‘Our house is burning while we look the other way… Nature, mutilated and over-exploited, can no longer regenerate, and we refuse to admit it… the Earth and mankind are in danger, and we are all responsible.’
2002, address to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
‘In the face of intolerance and hate, no dealing is possible, no compromise is possible, no debate is possible.’
2002, explaining his refusal to take part in a televised debate with far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen ahead of presidential elections.
Invasion of Iraq
‘There is no justification for a unilateral decision to resort to war. Iraq today does not represent an immediate threat that justifies an immediate war.’
2003, after US President George W. Bush told Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to leave the country within 48 hours or face military action.
Knowing one’s place
‘These countries behaved in a way both ill-educated and reckless… Apart from being childish, it was also dangerous.’
2003, reprimanding five would-be European Union members for endorsing US plans to invade Iraq.
‘The only thing they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease. After Finland, it is the country with the worst food. One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad.’
2005, again caught on a microphone speaking to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Reputation as a womaniser
‘I was never averse to women. But I never overdid it either.’
In a book of interviews published in 2007, ‘The Stranger in the Elysee’.
‘What people will remember, I have no idea. I’m not really a vain person.’
The same book.