Stanley's blog

500th Blog post (cont)

Personal note

I never blog about myself but Blogactiv have asked me to make an exception this time and tell an anecdote. I received an unexpected letter from the French Minister for Europe in 200? announcing that I had been awarded by President Chirac the Ordre Nationale du Mérite for “services to Europe”. Some weeks later I asked my PA to find out what had happened to it. The French Embassies in Brussels and London knew nothing about it. So she rang the Elysée and received confirmation that the Ambassador in Brussels or London will make the presentation.

I asked a French MEP for advice and why the President could not make the presentation. He consulted and advised that the President could but I would have to wait months. He said that the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, would hold a ceremony for three of us at the Matignon. Arangements were chaotic but eventually my party arrived at the Matignon (we were each given 30 invitations). From that moment onwards, everything ran beautifully. The Prime Minister made warm and well researched presentations on all three of us. In my case, he began: “And now we cross ze Channel”. After the presentation, our partners were each given by the Prime Minister a beautiful bouquet of flowers. There followed a magnificent champagne reception at which he stayed for over 90 minutes. As we left, we were given a cassette of his speech and a few days later an excellent set of photographs.

A few months later I received a letter from Buckingham Palace offering me the Order of the British Empire (OBE) – clearly as result of the French award, but for “services to the European Policy Centre”. ‘To Europe’ was evidently one step too far.

After I was notified, disgusted at my government’s reluctance I wrote a quite emotional letter to a very high level British diplomat with whom I was friendly. He replied and added that if he detected any hesitance on my part to accept the OBE, I should thing again, because I would miss Gilbert & Sullivan at their best. This humorous reply put things in perspective.

The organization was perfect but there were dozens of recipients of honours at the ceremony, and we were each allowed two guests. The presentations were highly formal and stylized, made by Prince Charles. We had a choice of refreshments between canned juice and water. Cameras were prohibited and we had to pay quite heavily to have our photographs taken by an accredited photographer.

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