Sunday 3 April 2011
Ma cérémonie d’accueil dans la nationalité française took place on Friday, in the palais préfectoral located in Vieux Nice. The “prefectoral palace” was formerly le palais des ducs de Savoie ; le palais des rois de Sardaigne. Just 150 years ago, Nice was not part of France, but part of the duchy of Savoy, which later became part of the kingdom of Sardinia, thus the dual names for the palace. Although the palace is open to visit a few times a year, I’d never been inside, so it was quite a treat to experience the richly decorated salle des fêtes (festivities hall) firsthand.
About a hundred brand-new French citizens residing in the département des Alpes-Maritimes had been invited to the ceremony, so it was quite large, and long. The sous-préfet began the ceremony with a nice speech, then we stood to sing La Marseillaise. After that, we were shown a short film entitled “Devenir Français”, which gave a very brief history of la République Française, the Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, some background on the French republic’s values (and official motto) liberté, égalité, fraternité, an additional bit on laïcité, and finally, a rather jarring sequence of ground, air, and naval war scenes with running commentary about how we could be called to defend France.
Once the film had finished, we were each called by name to shake hands with the sous-préfet and our city’s representative, and receive our new papers. There was a verre de l’amitié (“friendship toast”) afterwards, but as we’d all arrived at 8:30am and I was finally called at 11am (they went in alphabetical order), I didn’t hang around to see how it went. Neither did many others – it was kind of a shame that they had invited so many of us at once, since a smaller group would have been more conducive to meeting people. Even the préfecture staff commented on how the group was a bit too large, so I got the sense that they’ll be on a smaller scale in the future.