Transcript: J.K. Rowling’s Legion d’Honneur Award Acceptance Speech

Transcribed and translated by Felicia Grady

Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen, please forgive my accent and all the grammatical mistakes I am going to make. My French is terrible despite having taught French in Scotland many years ago. But I remember enough to recognize my disgraceful errors. Firstly, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for bestowing this honor upon me. It’s so very wonderful and unexpected. I can’t say that I feel I really deserve this, but the Legion d’Honneur has a very special personal meaning for me that I will explain in a few moments. The chance to visit the Élysée Palace and meet your president was enough to convince me to accept your invitation.

I’m especially grateful to receive this medal in front of these young French Harry Potter fans with your deep appreciation for the series, and the many letters you have sent me over the years have made me happy. As I mentioned, the Legion d’Honneur has a very special personal meaning for me. My great-grandfather was French. His name was Louis Volant, and he was awarded with the Legion d’Honneur in 1924 for his bravery during the Battle of Verdun. My own worth should not be compared to the acts of courage of someone who sacrificed their life or received multiple wounds in the name of freedom and justice. However, Louis is an ancestor I am particularly proud of, and I would like to believe that he would have been happy to know that there is now a second person in the family to have been awarded the Legion d’Honneur and that the books written by his descendent have been such a source of pleasure to his native country.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my French publisher, Gallimard. Thank you for all the support you gave Harry and his creator over the years. Gallimard was the first to publish the Harry Potter books abroad and holds a special place in my heart. I would also like to thank French readers in general for not being offended that I gave the villain of my books a French name. I assure you, the reason for my choice was not due to any anti-French sentiment. I am a Francophile, and I have always been proud of that, but I needed a name that evoked power and foreignness. On the other hand, I have to say that Voldemort himself is, in fact, 100% English.

I doubt that any of my next books will be as successful as Harry Potter, which has surpassed my wildest dreams. I am very happy to have this success, and my greatest reward is to imagine thanking Harry since children all over the world have discovered the pleasure of reading. I will never forget the years the seven Harry Potter books were published. They were the most extraordinary years of my life, and a night like this is proof of the magical effect that Harry Potter has had on the life of its author. Mr. President, thank you again for this huge honor. It will be a very precious memory for me and a beautiful night. Thank you.