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France profonde

By Tim King   April 2003

When France and the US reinvented themselves at the end of the 18th century, they shared a deep hostility to aristocratic power. But France never quite got rid of its old order. The US president lives in a white house; his French counterpart lives in a palace.

The supreme manifestation of the French elite, the Bottin Mondain, is celebrating its centenary this year. Not as exclusive as Debrett’s Peerage, nor as vulgar as Who’s Who, this is the catalogue of the gratin, France’s aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie: 43,000 entries this year, half of them from noble families.

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