France to downplay First World War centenary commemorations to avoid offence

Mr Macron has invited 60 world leaders including US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Paris for a large-scale ceremony to mark 100 years since the Great War ended, with several other large events planned across Europe.

But the French leader is keen to downplay any triumphalism to avoid upsetting his fellow countrymen.

The tone of Mr Macron’s speech at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be respectful of the millions who died in the conflict rather than focussing on the Allied victory.

Nearly 40 million soldiers and civilians were killed between 1914-1918 and many French people view the four-year war as an unnecessary slaughter rather than a victory that should be celebrated.

A source told the newspaper: “The combatants were mainly civilians who had been armed.”

Mr Macron has refused to celebrate Marshal Petain who was seen as a hero for his part in leading the French army to victory at the nine month long Battle of Verdun in 1916.

The General later collaborated with the Nazis in World War Two, voting to ally the French government with Germany.

After the war he was found guilty of treason and died in prison aged 95.

The move has been met with mixed reaction as French historian and former military colonel Michel Goya saying Mr Macron was “insulting the soldiers of 1918”.

However General Bruno Dary, who heads the committee in charge of looking after the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier said Mr Macron’s plans would be appropriate.

He told the Daily Telegraph that even without a military parade, “the military dispositions will be the same as in previous years”.

Lord Dannatt, former chief of the general staff who has been on the UK’s First World War advisory board since 2013, said Mr Macron was right to downplay the tone of commemorations.

He said: “Triumphalism, victory, those sort of notions are inappropriate.

“There is no need for jingoistic reaction at all and for Macron to be just coming to that conclusion now shows he is a pretty inexperienced politician.”

Meanwhile, it is thought senior members of the Royal Family will not take part in the event in Paris.

The Queen, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are all expected to stay in London to be present at the Cenotaph.

French organisers have invited a representative of the British government with Downing St saying they will send a “senior Government minister” to the Paris ceremony.