'Bonjour Mrs Macron': 101-year old Frenchwoman mistakes Angela Merkel for French President's wife

Henry Samuel
A French pensioner mistook Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany for the wife of President Emmanuel Macron of France - REUTERS

A 101-year-old French pensioner has mistaken Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, for the wife of Emmanuel Macron, the French President, in a touching mix-up during First World War commemorations.

The Franco-German "couple" may not be firing on all cylinders politically but one old French woman applied the term quite literally to the leaders of the European Union's two heavyweight nations.

The conjugal confusion took place as the two heads of state were attending a ceremony on Saturday near the town of Compiègne, north of Paris, to mark the centenary of the signing of the Armistice agreement that ended the conflict on November 11, 1918.

As they met members of the public, a 101-year-old woman was first introduced to Mr Macron.

Grabbing his hand she exclaimed: "Monsieur Macron! That is not possible! A little woman like me shaking hands with the President of the Republic. That's fantastic!”

She then turned to Mrs Merkel, 64, with a smile to say: "You are Madame Macron!"

The Franco-Germany "couple" may not be firing on all cylinders but one pensioner took the term literally Credit:  BENOIT TESSIER/AFP

In fact Mr Macron, 40, is married to Brigitte, 65, and Mrs Merkel to Joachim Stauer, 69.

Bemused, Mrs Merkel , who was accompanied by her interpreter, responded at first in Germany by saying: "No, I am the Chancellor of Germany.”

When this failed to trigger a reaction, Mrs Merkel had a stab at the same sentence in French. "Je suis la chancelière allemande," she said. 

It still remained unclear whether the woman had understood who she was, but she looked visibly delighted. “It’s fantastic,” she kept saying as Mr Macron asked her to turn to the camera for a photo with his German “wife” before kissing her goodbye.

She promised to be back for next year's commemoration. 

The two leaders had signed a book of remembrance in a railway carriage identical to the one in which the 1918 Armistice was signed. They also laid a wreath and unveiled a plaque to Franco-German reconciliation.

Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel held hands and put on a united front before the French president welcomed around 70 world leaders including American and Russian presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin for centenary commemorations on Sunday.

Despite their visible entente and joint call for a multi-polar world and warnings against the rise of nationalism, the Franco-German "motor” - supposed to be the driving force behind EU integration - is sputtering.

Mrs Merkel, who has been weakened by electoral setbacks, lacks the clout to push for greater European integration and has clashed with Mr Macron on taxing  “Gafa" internet giants and on EU defence.