Emmanuel Macron Changed the Color of the French Flag Last Year — and No One Noticed Until Now

The color alteration was made on the eve of France's national day.

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris
Photo: Ludovic Marin/Getty Images

For more than a year, the French flag has had a different-than-usual look after President Emmanuel Macron changed its colors. The difference in appearance, however, is so slight that most people didn't even notice until it was recently reported by French radio station Europe 1. The alteration itself actually happened on July 13, 2020.

The French flag is still represented by three vertical stripes of blue, white, and red, but take a closer look, and you'll see that the blue is now a darker shade, reverting back to its original version. The French flag originally featured a navy blue stripe, but was changed in 1976 to a lighter hue to match the blue of the European Union flag. The decision was made by then-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Euronews reported.

The French and European flags at the entrance to the Elysée Palace,
Andrea Savorani Neri/Getty Images

The president's office explained that the change was meant as a tribute to those who fought in the French Revolution, World War I, and World War II. Others believe it may be a sign that Macron is distancing himself from the European Union, The Guardian reported.

Prior to the 1976 change, France had been flying the navy blue, white, and red flag since the 18th century. According to Euronews, going back to that original flag was the initiative of Arnaud Jolens, director of operations at Elysée Palace, the president's residence.

In "Elysée Confidentiel," a recently released book by journalists Eliot Blondet and Paul Larrouturou, Jolens recounted a conversation he had with Macron on the eve of France's national day in July 2020.

"'By the way, I'm changing the flags on all the buildings of the presidency tomorrow.' The head of state smiles. 'Giscard had changed this blue for aesthetic reasons during the rapprochement with Europe, but the flag that all the presidents have been dragging around since then was not the real French flag'," the book reads in its retelling of the conversation between Jolens and Macron.

With that conversation, the flag was changed, and now all buildings associated with the presidency fly this navy blue version.

Can you spot the difference between the flags?

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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