Sarkozy: The man who's made a mockery of FranceLast updated at 21:57pm on 28th February 2008
But if that raised murmurs of disquiet at Buckingham Palace, then it is as nothing compared to the feelings for President Sarkozy at home. Indeed, it is fair to say that by the time he sits down to dine with the Queen, he is likely to be the most unpopular President of France for the past 35 years.
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President Bling Bling: Nicolas Sarkozy has been ridiculed in France
You can get away with a lot as President of the French Republic. You can keep a secret mistress at public expense; you can kidnap and beat up journalists who threaten to expose the existence of your illegitimate daughter; you can salt away a fortune in illegal Swiss bank accounts. You can do all this and you will be buried, like Francois Mitterrand, with full national honours.
But one thing is absolutely out of the question. You cannot make the entire nation feel foolish. And yet that is how millions of French voters feel after weeks of watching their President cavorting around the world with his new bride, the former model Carla Bruni, while simultaneously insulting a host of political allies and the public alike.
Already his behaviour has become so unpredictable that one Spanish newspaper has described the French President as "sick", while the media coverage at home has accused Sarkozy of "turning the country into a magnificent toy for a child" or of "staging Desperate Housewives at the Elysee Palace".
For a man who promised to drag France into a new era of mature prosperity, it is an extraordinary decline.
Sarkozy was elected on a manifesto that was bound to be controversial since he promised "la rupture", a programme of economic and social reform that would mark a clean break with state intervention and over-centralised government.
But the President's recent unpopularity has little to do with his politics.
His ratings have fallen 27 points in eight months, whereas prime minister Francois Fillon, who is in charge of day-to-day government, has lost only five points over the same period. Instead, the popularity plunge has to do with Sarkozy's personal behaviour.
Last week, while officially opening the annual Nation Farmers' Show, Sarkozy was insulted by a man in the crowd who rejected his handshake and shouted: 'Don't touch me, you will make me dirty.' Instead of ignoring him and moving on, the President replied: 'Drop dead, you little cretin.'
This was merely the latest in a long line of gaffes which give the impression that the President of France is simply not up to the job.
The traditional role of the President of the Republic is to be a calm figure above the political battle, someone who can unite the nation, act as a final arbiter and take the long view, a role invented and brilliantly executed by General de Gaulle.
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Whirlwind romance: The president has married Italian supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni
The President is expected to act as a sort of elected constitutional monarch whose responsibility is in defence and foreign policy and who takes a solemn vow to protect France and to be its dignified representative.
But since coming to power Sarkozy has violated almost all of these traditions. Instead of remaining above the battle and resigning as leader of his own political party, the UMP, he remains the party's chief and even holds a weekly meeting of its steering committee at the Elysee Palace.
And he has personally intervened in the forthcoming local elections in his old constituency of Neuilly, a Paris suburb, in favour of his 22-year-old son.
Furthermore, instead of letting his government get on with the job, he interferes, frequently overruling ministers and making policy on the hoof.
Criticised for his policy statements about the importance of Christian traditions, Sarkozy attempted to please the Jewish community and announced that every ten-year-old child in France would have to "adopt" the identity of one of the 11,400 Jewish children who died in Nazi camps after being deported by France's Vichy government during the war.
Much to his surprise, this idea caused outrage even within the Jewish community. Simone Veil, a political veteran and sage, who was herself a childhood victim of deportation, said it 'made her blood run cold'. And the President's idea was dropped.
In another ill-judged attempt at populism, on the eve of local elections that are likely to prove disastrous for the Right, Sarkozy announced that criminals serving long sentences for murder and rape would in future be held indefinitely in mental asylums when their sentences ended, until they were certified as safe.
When France's supreme court, the Constitutional Council, ruled that this measure was unconstitutional, Sarkozy reacted by saying he would find a way round the ruling, so defying the very institution whose independence he is supposed to guarantee.
But the most serious damage Sarkozy has inflicted on himself lies much closer to home. Quite simply, his private life has intruded on his public role to the extent that it resembles the plot of a soap opera.
The saga began before last year's presidential elections, when Sarkozy was humiliated after his glamorous wife Cecilia left him and set up with an American businessman. He managed to patch up the marriage before the poll, and then tried to keep his wife happy by giving her a Hillary Clintonstyle role in government.
But Cecilia's brief period as France's 'First Lady' was marked by a series of disasters. She wrecked her husband's inauguration ceremony by ignoring most of the guests, walked out of two international conferences and then snubbed President Bush during an official visit to Washington.
Worse was to come. Last summer, in attempt to bolster her public role, she flew to Libya where she was said to have personally persuaded Colonel Gaddafi to release an East European medical team who had been held hostage for several years.
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Coffee break: The couple have been pictured in lots of loving clinches
In fact, it soon transpired that the French government had secretly ransomed the hostages, and Cecilia played no part in the negotiations.
Shortly afterwards, the Sarkozys were divorced, with the President's pride suffering a further blow when - two weeks after Cecilia's departure - he was obliged to welcome Colonel Gaddafi on a state visit.
His chosen method of consolation - an affair with a younger woman - was perfectly acceptable to French voters, other than the fact that it was conducted with all the dignity and decorum of a love-struck teenager. In France there is a traditional respect for the privacy of politicians. But instead of being discreet about his love for Carla Bruni, Sarkozy decided to advertise it to the world.
The pair were seen canoodling on official visits the Vatican and Egypt.
In response, the French Press took Sarkozy's violation of his own privacy as an invitation for open day on the presidency. He was christened 'President Bling Bling', in reference to his love of expensive trinkets.
A savage campaign of ridicule culminated on February 7, when a magazine published a text message allegedly sent by Sarkozy to ex-wife Cecilia, just one week before he married Carla Bruni: the text supposedly read: "Return home and I will cancel everything."
But perhaps the most serious evidence that Sarkozy has "lost it", is in his handling of Franco-German relations. For the past 50 years, the combined weight of France and Germany has enabled the two countries to run the European union almost as a private club, but the arrangement has now broken down for two reasons.
The first is that Sarkozy has decided to replace the Franco-German axis with a new closer relationship between France, Washington and London. The second reason is German Chancellor Angela Merkel's intense dislike of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Only yesterday it was announced that Sarkozy had postponed a meeting with Merkel for three months. The immediate disagreement is over the French President's determination to form a "Club Med", a formal union of all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Germany regards this as a threat to European unity and a potential complication in its delicate relationship with Turkey.
The final straw came when Merkel refused to sign a joint newspaper article welcoming the "Club Med". Sarkozy then cancelled his visit.
This characteristically impulsive behaviour confirmed Merkel's low opinion of the President, whom she considers to be disrespectful, overfamiliar, hyperactive and boastful.
When she heard about his passion for Carla Bruni she even nicknamed him "President Duracell", after the long-life battery.
Every day, it seems, there is some fresh embarrassment, or some new Presidential gaffe that erodes his public standing yet further. Yesterday it was even rumoured in Paris that his three-week-old marriage to Carla Bruni was actually illegal because the ceremony took place in a private room in the Elysee Palace and not, as the law requires, in a public place.
The result of this ignominy? The man who promised to be France's Mrs Thatcher has instead turned into its Alan Clark - an arrogant playboy who appears to believe the normal rules of office do not apply to him.
Far from counting it as in insult, the Queen may consider herself fortunate that her forthcoming guest has opted to cut his visit short.