Re-presidentialization. De-bling-bling-ation. To hear spectators on both sides of the channel tell it, you'd think French President Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to Britain last week was less state visit and more celebrity detox. After his setback in municipal elections last month, the splashy leader is trading in his aviators and luxury watches for a different sort of look—solemn, with a mien of gravitas. More, er, presidential.
Since actions speak louder than sunglasses, Sarkozy backed up his style shift with de Gaulle-esque pageantry following the ballot disaster: an austere state funeral for the last World War I veteran; an alpine pilgrimage in tribute to World War II dead.
And then there's the trip to Windsor. While detractors may have hoped for typical antics (like when the president checked his text messages in the pope's presence last December), the French leader not only managed to behave himself, but to play the trump in his image revamp: his wife.
Once scorned as a "man-eater," Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has gone through a makeover of her own: playing the happy homemaker in a Paris Match spread, floating about London in an elegant Jackie Kennedy-style pillbox hat. She's even being touted as "the new Diana."
But the face-lift may not be enough to revive Sarko's presidency, which now gets a 37 percent approval rating from voters. "To go from unpopular to popular," says BVA pollster Gaël Sliman, "the only way is to give people the sense he's responding to their economic demands."