Madame-President: Catherine Pégard

By Mariachiara Ficarelli

In the balustrade terraces of the Jardin du Luxembourg are a series of celebrated French female saints and queens. One day, Catherine Pégard may have a statue of her own.

Pégard is the president of the Château de Versailles. She has held this position since 2011 when Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, appointed her.

Yet, Pégard while having an executive role is not removed from the people and space she governs. It is perhaps her background working as a political journalist for Le Point, which allows Pégard to have such a profound on-the-ground knowledge of Versailles. She stresses the importance of being there.

“If you want to know something, you must know to be there,” she says.

And Pégard is there. She knows that the best moment to appreciate the Hall of Mirrors is at sunset when the light is pink. She knows that putting Angela Merkel’s office in the bathroom of Marie de Antoinette is the best way to impress the Chancellor of Germany. However, she also knows that she still has “everything to learn about Versailles.”

True to her origins as a journalist, Pégard understands that there is always something new to uncover that has been left out of “history with a Big H.”

She tells the anecdote of the discovery of the wedding between the driver and the secretary of President Eisenhower that took place in the chapel in the Palace as an example of “little h” history. It is such stories, left out of the commonly known history, which Pégard believes keep Versailles from becoming a “dead museum.”

However, Pégard does not aim to paint a rosy picture of her job with her heartwarming anecdotes. She states, “the good is better than you think and the bad is worse thank you think.”

Pégard does not feel the need to delve further into either the positive or the negative aspects of her job. Likewise, she does not feel the need to linger much on her position as a woman in the male-dominated French political environment.

“The most important things have been done,” Pégard says in reference to the representation of women in the French workplace.

She gestures to her pregnant assistant sitting at the end of the table to highlight her statement. Then she changes subject.

Pégard does not care for frills and much elaboration in any of her statements. She is straightforward. She knows that there is work to do. Above all, she knows that she will do it well.

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