When Francis met Francois

When Francis met Francois

I imagine a formal meeting with the charismatic new Pontiff at the Vatican was hardly the ideal way for Francois Hollande to round off one of the more challenging fortnights of his short presidential career and, as the above photo suggests, Pope Francis did not appear overly-sympathetic to Monsieur Hollande’s romantic travails.

And yet, if one delves a little deeper, this is a relationship with a surprising degree of commonality. It goes beyond a shared Christian name, because they are both men with a track record for idiosyncratic tailoring, footwear and modes of transport. Pope Francis may have eschewed the sartorial excesses of some of his predecessors, such as the jewel-encrusted scarlet slippers favoured by Pope Benedict, but his simple, yet elegant, white cassock will have been made bespoke for him, I am certain. No doubt there was more than a little irony at play in Esquire Magazine’s decision to name the Argentinian cleric as the best-dressed man of 2013, but Pope Francis is box office, and he has a rare gift for positive self-promotion.

What poor old Francois would give for the Vatican’s PR machine, as he lurches from one catastrophe to the next. At least, a la Pope Francis, he has retained a certain Latin cool and, oddly, his current ménage a trois seems to have improved his personal ratings with the French public in a way his economic policies have signally failed to do. Perhaps the French people feel sorry for a man who claims to own only one pair of shoes (it was the instantly recognizable footwear which allowed the press to identify him as he visited his new girlfriend), although I suspect there were more than a few Gallic shrugs when Hollande admitted that he had never owned a bespoke suit until he embarked upon his successful presidential campaign. Perhaps, however, the clincher in the recent surge in popularity is his preferred choice of transport for his late night trysts, a modest scooter (albeit chauffeur-driven) is surely a media match for the iconic Popemobile?

So off-camera, this dynamic duo may have more in common than we might think. 

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