Macron to celebrate 40th birthday in royal style

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Paris (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron will celebrate his birthday Saturday at the iconic chateau of King Francois I, a choice that could feed into perceptions of a "president of the rich".

Macron, who turns 40 on Thursday, is spending the weekend with his wife Brigitte and extended family at the chateau of Chambord in France's Loire Valley, the French daily La Nouvelle Republique reported.

With its fairy tale facade, elaborately turreted roofline and vast grounds, Chambord is probably the valley's best-known Renaissance chateau, located about 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of Paris.

Macron and his family will stay at one of the cottages on the vast estate, French media said, with a birthday gala to be held Saturday evening in one of the castle's 440 rooms.

The estate has several 4-star guest houses which can be rented for 800 to 1,000 euros ($950-$1,200) per weekend.

The Elysee Palace said Macron and his wife were using private funds to pay for their stay.

Commissioned nearly 500 years ago by King Francois I (1494-1547), the immense chateau remains the largest of the Loire grand estates, boasting 365 chimneys and a 5,500-hectare (21-square mile) estate.

It also has boasts the largest enclosed forest park in Europe, a long-time favourite for presidential hunts.

The chateau, which attracts some two million visitors each year, has been listed as a regional UNESCO World Heritage cultural site.

Macron, a media darling during his campaign, has seen his image as a monarchical or even "pharaonic" leader climb from the night of his election, which featured a theatrical production at the foot of the Louvre pyramid in Paris.

Several newspapers have also expressed unease over the growing concentration of power in the presidency, and critics have said his use of executive orders to ram through landmark reform in September did not help matters.

In July, the cover of the left-wing Liberation newspaper mockingly depicted him as Jupiter, the Roman god of gods, and accused him of failing to share power -- an accusation echoed by Le Monde daily.

Jupiter is now regularly used by Macron's critics who accuse his centrist government of favouring the rich.