Jacques Chirac: Former French president dies at 86

Jacques Chirac, the former French president who championed the European Union, but whose later years were blighted by corruption scandals, has died aged 86.

“President Jacques Chirac died this morning surrounded by his family, peacefully,” his son-in-law told AFP.

Chirac served two terms as president, one as prime minister, and took France into the single European currency.

The French National Assembly observed a minute’s silence in his memory.

French television stations are playing wall-to-wall tributes, and it is moving to be taken back once again to that long epoch in French history when Jacques Chirac was at the centre of it all.

There he is as a chisel-chinned prime minister in the 1970s; later in a flared three-piece suit, announcing the creation of his Gaullist party; then as president upbraiding Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem; or glad-handing at the annual farm show in Paris.

The years have passed and no-one particularly wants to dwell on the many failings of the man. No mention in the tributes of the corruption and the flipflops.

What remains for most is the memory of a likeable man, a man of culture (at least that was the image he cultivated), and a president who acted like a French president is supposed to – that is, projecting the permanent conviction that France, of course, is the best place in the world.