Podcast: British in France, returning human remains, the Comtesse du Barry

By Sarah Elzas - RFI
France Podcast: British in France, returning human remains, the Comtesse du Barry
DEC 7, 2023 LISTEN

How British people in France have been navigating visiting and living in France since Brexit effectively ended their visa-free travel to Europe. What to do with the human remains in French museums? And the story behind Louis XV's third mistress, the Comtesse du Barry, and how her name got associated with foie gras.

British people, no longer citizens of the European Union after Brexit, are stuck with the same rules as any other non-EU visitors: without a visa, they can only spend 90 out of 180 days in France. That's a sore spot for many of the roughly 86,000 Brits who owned second homes in France when the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016. As part of the contentious immigration bill being debated in parliament, the French Senate considered making it easier for non-Europeans who own a second home to spend time in France – but ultimately decided that Brits shouldn't get special treatment, nor should people who can afford to buy a second home. Emma Pearson, host of the Talking France podcast and editor of The Local France, talks about what what kind of choices British people are facing after Brexit, whether they want to visit or stay longer term. (Listen @1'05)

France has the largest collection of human skulls in its museums and public institutions – some collected in dubious ways. Returning remains to descendants is part of reckoning with colonial history, but it has been been hampered by a law designed to keep French public museum collections intact. Lawmakers, supported by historians and pushed by descendants and states that want these relics back, are finally passing legislation that will facilitate the return of human remains. Corinne Toka-Devilliers of the Moliko Alet+po association talks about tracking down the skeletons of her ancestors, who were brought to mainland France from French Guiana in 1892 to be displayed in a human zoo, and historian Klara Boyer-Rossol talks about how human remains got into French collections, and the best way to return them. Interviews conducted by Anne Corpet and Hodane Hagi Ali. (Listen @18'15)

The Comtesse du Barry died on 8 December 1793, executed by guillotine during the French Revolution. We look at the story of Louis XV's third official mistress, and how her name became associated with tinned foie gras. (Listen @13')

Episode mixed by Stephane Defossez.
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