J.K. Rowling reassured French readers of her hugely successful Harry Potter series on Tuesday that she had nothing against their country despite giving her arch-villain a French name, Voldemort.
The name of the dark wizard who speaks to snakes and yearns for immortality means "flight of death" in French, and Rowling offered her reassurance to France as she received one of the country's highest awards, the Legion d'honneur.
"I want to thank my French readers for not resenting my choice of a French name for my evil character," she said in fluent French at a ceremony during which she received the award from President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"I can assure you that the decision did not come from any anti-French sentiment ... But I needed a name that evoked both power and exoticism," she said of Voldemort, Harry Potter's nemesis in the seven episodes of the bestselling series.
Rowling said she was in fact part-French as she had a French great-grandfather who fought in World War One and was honored for that in 1924 with the Legion d'honneur, the same honor she received for her services to literature.
"I like to think that he would be happy to know there is a second Legion d'honneur in the family and that the books written by his descendant have given some pleasure in his native country," she said.
The award, created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, has several levels. Rowling was named a "Chevalier de l'ordre de la Legion d'honneur," which is the first level.