The posthumous marriage is not a recent addition to French law. It was briefly in use after World War I so soldiers’ partners could receive the military pensions allocated to the wives of the men who perish serving on the battlefields. But it was reintroduced in the constitution in 1959 after the natural tragedy of the Barrage de Malpasset in which more than 400 people died due to the breaking of the barrage and intense flooding. In 1972, children who were birthed by parents not legally married were now authorized to benefit from the same legal rights as those who were.
If posthumous marriage permits to repair to some extent unfortunate circumstances, it is certainly not granted to everyone and involves a long procedure before being validated. What many people ignore is that only the French president has the authority to approve posthumous unions. To have their request validated, the applicants need to show solid evidence of a clear intention from both parties to get married such as testimonies from relatives or friends, proof of wedding dresses and outfit fittings, and receipts of catering services. Once the marriage is approved, the day before the death of the deceased person is chosen as the legal marriage date.
In general, French presidents’ involvement in posthumous weddings stops with their letter of approval to the surviving partner but exceptional circumstances entail exceptional protocol. That was the case of former French president François Hollande who attended the posthumous wedding of Xavier Jugelé, a policeman who was killed by a jihadist during an attack on the Champs Élysées in April 2017. His long-time partner, Étienne Cardiles, had requested the right to wed his late partner.