At 100 years old, the French woman in her white knitted hat and scarf could perhaps be forgiven for what was, after all, an undiplomatic mistake.
As she waited in the drizzle at the armistice centenary commemoration at Compiègne, Paulette Monier shook hands with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and then turned to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Clutching Merkel’s hand in a purple woollen glove, she asked: “Are you Madame Macron?”
For a fraction of a second, Merkel looked nonplussed, before she quickly smiled and replied in German “I am the German chancellor”, which was translated for the Monier.
When she asked Merkel a second time if she was Mrs Macron, Merkel leaned in and said into her ear in French “je suis chancelière allemande [I am the German chancellor]”, while Macron looked on bemused.
It was a touching moment to conclude a moving ceremony in which the French and German leaders clasped hands to seal their countries’ reconciliation.
For Monier, sat in the front row of the 1,000 members of the public invited to attend, it was a moment of pure emotion.
“Monsieur Macron! It’s not possible. A little old woman like me shaking hands with the president of the republic. It’s fantastic. Fantastic,” she said. “Now don’t make me cry.”
Informed that Monier would be celebrating her 101st birthday on Monday, Macron insisted she pose for a photograph with him and Merkel either side. He then pecked her on each cheek.
“It’s fantastic. Thank you, thank you a million times. I’ll be here again next year,” she said.
“So will we … thank you for your energy. Happy birthday, madame,” said the president. “Wonderful,” he added as he walked away.