Francesca Craig (l) and Nora Pouillon at the recent Pen/Faulkner Gala. Photograph by James Brantley
It’s time to set aside the conventional complaints that the French are snobs about America and Americans. The French ambassador, François Delattre, and his wife, Sophie Helias-Delattre, have named Washingtonian and native Rhode Islander Francesca Craig as the embassy’s new social secretary. Craig begins work on Monday, and she can expect a life change. Why? Because in social, political, and diplomatic Washington she will suddenly have a lot of new “best friends.” But she’ll also have the power to keep them under control.
The French Embassy is one of the most socially active of the capital’s diplomatic missions. Invitations to its receptions and dinners—not to mention to the annual star-studded after-party of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner—are coveted. Also, with the arrival of the Delattres, who succeeded the popular Pierre Vimont (now a secretary general of the European Union), the residence staff has gone through some changes, including the loss of the house manager and the chef.
For the past few years Craig has been working in development for the Center for Public Integrity; before that she worked with Walter Isaacson at the Aspen Institute. She can handle having a lot of balls in the air, which is a key task of the new job. She has children at multiple schools: a son at Sidwell Friends, a daughter at Washington Latin Charter School, a son at the University of Edinburgh, and another son who recently graduated from Yale. And a dog, too, a bichon frisé named Fifi.
A native of Newport, Rhode Island, Craig attended Portsmouth Abbey School and New York University, and studied law at the University of London in Hong Kong. But lest anyone quibble about her credentials for the job, her heritage is half French (on her mother’s side), and she’s fluent in the language and the ooh-la-la nation’s unique virtues: “I love the French people, Martinique especially, the culture, the food, the couture, Air France, the TGV, the wine, the movies, the cities, the bread! I could keep going. . .”
There’s a mutual appreciation. According to embassy spokesman Luis Vassy, Amb. Delattre is delighted Craig is joining the French team. “Her professionalism and dynamism will be an asset in assisting the Ambassador [in running] a place that he intends to open to fellow Washingtonians,” he says.
In addition to getting to know her in-house colleagues, Craig plans to meet next week with a formidable and revered expert on the social secretary gig: Amanda Downes, the veteran social secretary at the British Embassy. So don’t anybody go saying the French and the British don’t get along—especially when there’s an American in the mix.