French President Francois Hollande who returned to France at the end of the Informal Summit, on Friday held two appointments that were far from the public eye and the exposure to camera lenses. Hollande visited two places in Valletta connected to France’s two year rule in Malta, a road that had been named Rue De ‘l Égalité – Equality Street, and the residence used by Napoleon Bonaparte when he visited Malta in June 1798.
Over and above his commitments in the Summit, Malta Television is informed that the French President expressed a wish for a quick walkabout in Valletta’s streets to enable him to visit historic monuments in Malta’s capital city, particularly those with French connections.
Together with the French Ambassador to Malta, Beatrice le Fraper du Hellen, historian Dr Charles Xuereb accompanied the French President as he walked along Republic Street.
President Hollande was taken to Old Treasury Street where he saw a plaque that had been affixed earlier in the week commemorating the few remaining letters from the street name Strada Dell Egualianza, in French Rue De ‘l Égalité, the only street name that has survived from the French rule in Malta, on a column near the Grandmasters’ Palace. Dr Xuereb explained the street name was in Italian because it was a popular language at the time.
Dr Charles Xuereb said that when the columns and arcades were cleaned great care was taken to prevent the proliferation of dust further damaging the street name lettering. He said he well remembered that when visiting Valletta 20 and 30 years ago the whole name was legible and although its restoration was late, some element had been saved because better late than never.
While walking along Republic Street the French President carefully observed the architecture and stopped to talk to members of the public and have his picture taken with them.
Dr Xuereb said he was highly impressed by people calling out to the French President and his stopping to shake hands with them. We asked them where they were from and some said Strasbourg and some from Nice and some from Paris, the majority of them tourists and the President told Dr Xuereb he was highly surprised that so many French tourists are visiting Malta.
President Hollande also visited Palazzo Parisio which houses the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the office currently used by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr George Vella which in June 1798 served as a residence for Napoleon Bonaparte and from where he issued scores of orders during the week which he spent at the Palace.