France–United Kingdom relations
France–United Kingdom relations are the relations between the governments of the French Republic and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). In recent years the two countries have experienced a very close relationship.citation needed
Although the designation "Anglo-" strictly specifically refers to England, not the UK as a whole, modern intergovernmental relations between these two nations are habitually called Anglo-French relations and understood to refer to the UK and not only England. The term Franco-British relations is also used.
Early Franco-British interactions occurred before Caesar's invasion of Gaul, when the two regions were inhabited by loosely trading Celts fighting the Romans as a common enemy. They continued under the Roman Empire – as both modern day states were ruled from Rome. Both were provinces in the larger Roman Empire.
Recently relations have been cordial and cooperative, with an edge of wariness on both sides due to historical differences and more recent disagreements between two of the leaders of the two countries: former French President Jacques Chirac and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. French author Jose-Alain Fralon characterised the relationship between the countries by describing the British as "our most dear enemies". Tony Blair is regarded as being a francophile by the French media1 and the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was known for his will to transform the "Entente Cordiale" into an "Entente amicale" (that is, a friendlier and closer relation).2
Much of the two countries' histories has been defined by the relationship between the two countries. Today, both France and the United Kingdom are member states of the European Union (EU), and it is estimated that about 400,000 French people live in the UK, with approximately the same number of British people living in France .3
|Area||674,843 km2 (260,558 sq mi)||243,610 km2 (94,060 sq mi )|
|Population Density||116/km2 (301/sq mi)||255.6/km2 (661.9/sq mi)|
|Largest City||Paris – 2,234,105 (12,161,542 Metro)||London – 8,174,100 (13,709,000 Metro)|
|Government||Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Official language||French (de facto and de jure)||English (de facto)|
|Main religions||58% Christianity, 31% non-Religious, 7% Islam,
1% Judaism, 1% Buddhism, 2% Other
|71.8% Christianity, 15.1% Non-Religious, 7.8% Unstated, 2.8% Islam,
1% Hinduism, 0.6% Sikhism, 0.5% Judaism, 0.3% Buddhism (2001 Census)
|Ethnic groups||84% French, 7% other European, 7% North African, Other Sub-Saharan African, Indochinese, Asian, Latin American and Pacific Islander.||85.67% White British, 5.27% White (other),1.8% Indian, 1.6% Pakistani, 1.2% White Irish, 1.2% Mixed Race, 1.0% Black Caribbean, 0.8% Black African, 0.5% Bangladeshi, 0.4% Other Asian, 0.4% Chinese, 0.6% Other|
|GDP (PPP)||$2.257 trillion, $35,613 per capita||$2.308 trillion, $36,605 per capita|
|GDP (nominal)||$2.712 trillion, $42,793 per capita||$2.452 trillion, $38,891 per capita|
|Expatriate populations||200,000 - 300,000 French-born people live in the UK||200,000 British-born people live in France|
|Military expenditures||$62.5 billion||$62.7 billion|
Although all peoples concerned were Celts (and the Germanic Angles and Franks had not yet invaded either country that would later bear their names), this could arguably be seen as the first major example of Anglo-French cooperation in recorded history. As a consequence, Caesar felt compelled to invade in an attempt to subdue Britain.
For the next five hundred years, there was much interaction between the two regions, as both Britain and France were under Roman rule. This was followed by another five hundred years with very little interaction between the two, as both were invaded by different Germanic tribes. At the turn of the second millennium, the British Isles were primarily involved with the Scandinavian world, while France's main foreign relationship was with the Holy Roman Empire.
However, in the mid-eleventh century there was a dispute over the English throne, and the French-speaking Normans, who were of Viking stock, invaded England under their duke William the Conqueror and took over following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and crowned themselves Kings of England.
The Norman feudal culture took root in England, and for the next 150 years England was generally considered of secondary importance to the dynasty's Continental territories, notably in Normandy and other western French provinces. The language of the aristocracy was French for several hundred years after the Norman Conquest. Many French words were adopted into the English language as a result. Possibly up to one third of the English language is derived from or through French. The first Norman kings were also the Dukes of Normandy, so relations were somewhat complicated between the countries. Though they were dukes ostensibly under the king of France, their higher level of organisation in Normandy gave them more de facto power. In addition, they were kings of England in their own right; England was not officially a province of France, nor a province of Normandy.
During the reign of the closely related Plantagenet dynasty, which was based in its Angevin Empire, half of France was under Angevin control as well as all of England. However, almost all of the Angevin empire was lost to Philip II of France under Richard the Lionheart, John and Henry III of England. This finally gave the English a separate identity as an Anglo-Saxon people under a Francophone, but not French, crown.
While the English and French had been frequently acrimonious, they had always had a common culture and little fundamental difference in identity. Nationalism had been minimal in days when most wars took place between rival feudal lords on a sub-national scale. The last attempt to unite the two cultures under such lines was probably a failed French-supported rebellion to depose Edward II. It was also during the Middle Ages that a Franco-Scottish alliance, known as the Auld Alliance was signed by King John of Scotland and Philip IV of France.
The English monarchy increasingly integrated with its subjects and turned to the English language wholeheartedly during the Hundred Years' War between 1337 and 1453. Though the war was in principle a mere dispute over territory, it drastically changed societies on both sides of the Channel. The English, although already politically united, for the first time found pride in their language and identity, while the French united politically.
Several of the most famous Anglo-French battles took place during the Hundred Years' War: Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt, Orléans, and Paris. Major sources of French pride stemmed from their leadership during the war. Bertrand du Guesclin was a brilliant tactician who forced the English out of the lands they had procured at the Treaty of Brétigny, a compromising treaty that most Frenchmen saw as a humiliation. Joan of Arc was another unifying figure who to this day represents a combination of religious fervour and French patriotism to all France. After her inspirational victory at Orléans and what many saw as Joan's martyrdom at the hands of Burgundians and Englishmen, Jean de Dunois eventually forced the English out of all of France except Calais, which was only lost in 1558. Apart from setting national identities, the Hundred Years' War is often cited as the root of the traditional rivalry and at times hatred between the two countries.
During this era, the English lost their last territories in France, except Calais,which would remain in English hands for another 105 years, though the English monarchs continued to style themselves as Kings of France until 1800.
France and Scotland agreed to defend each other in the event of an attack on either from England in several treaties, the most notable of which were in 1327 and 1490. There had always been intermarriage between the Scottish and French royal households, but this solidified the bond between the royals even further.
The English and French were engaged in numerous wars in the following centuries. They took opposite sides in all of the Italian Wars between 1494 and 1559.
An even deeper division set in during the English Reformation, when most of England converted to Protestantism and France remained Roman Catholic. This enabled each side to see the other as not only a foreign evil but also a heretical one. In both countries there was intense civil religious conflict. Because of the oppression by Roman Catholic King Louis XIII of France, many Protestant Huguenots fled to England. Similarly, many Catholics fled from England to France.
While Spain had been the dominant world power in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the English had often sided with France as a counterweight against them.5 This design was intended to keep a European balance of power, and prevent one country gaining overwhelming supremacy. Key to English strategy was the fear that a universal monarchy of Europe would be able to overwhelm the British Isles.6
Following the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, as Spain's power weakened, France began to take on a more assertive role under King Louis XIV of France with an expansionist policy both in Europe and across the globe. English foreign policy was now directed towards preventing France gaining supremacy on the continent and creating a universal monarchy. To the French, England was an isolated and piratical nation heavily reliant on naval power, and particularly privateers, which they referred to as Perfidious Albion.
There was a sharp diversion in political philosophies in the two states. In England King Charles I had been executed during the English Civil War for exceeding his powers, and later King James II had been overthrown in the Glorious Revolution. In France the power of the monarchs and their advisors went largely unchecked.
England and France fought each other in the War of the League of Augsburg from 1688 to 1697 which set the pattern for relations between France and Great Britain during the eighteenth century. Wars were fought intermittently, with each nation part of a constantly shifting pattern of alliances known as the stately quadrille.
Partly out of fear of a continental intervention an Act of Union was passed in 1707 creating the Kingdom of Great Britain, formally merging the kingdoms of Scotland, England and Wales .7 While the new Britain grew increasingly parliamentarian, France continued its system of absolute monarchy.
The newly united Britain fought France in the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1713, and the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748, attempting to maintain the balance of power in Europe. The British had a massive navy but maintained a small land army, so Britain always acted on the continent in alliance with other states such as Prussia and Austria as they were unable to fight France alone. Equally France, lacking a superior navy, was unable to ever launch a successful invasion of Britain.
France lent support to the Jacobite pretenders who claimed the British throne, hoping that a restored Jacobite monarchy would be inclined to be more pro-French. Despite this support the Jacobites failed to overthrow the Hanoverian monarchs.
As the century wore on, there was a distinct passage of power to Britain and France, at the expense of traditional major powers such as Portugal, Spain and the Dutch Republic. Some observers saw the frequent conflicts between the two states during the eighteenth century as a battle for control of Europe, though most of these wars ended without a conclusive victory for either side. France largely had greater influence on the continent while Britain posed dominant at sea and trade threatening French colonies abroad.
From the 1650s, the New World increasingly became a battleground between the two powers. The Western Design of Oliver Cromwell intended to build up an increasing British presence in North America, beginning with the acquisition of Jamaica from the Spanish Empire in 1652.8 The first British settlement on continental North America was founded in 1603, by the 1760s these had grown into thirteen separate colonies.
The French had settled the province of Canada to the North, and controlled Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean, the wealthiest colony in the world.9 Both countries, recognising the potential of India, established trading posts there. Wars between the two states increasingly took place in these other continents, as well as Europe.
The French and British fought each other and made treaties with Native American tribes to gain control of North America. Both nations coveted the Ohio Territory and in 1753 a British expedition there led by George Washington clashed with a French force. Shortly afterwards the French and Indian War broke out, initially taking place only in North America but in 1756 becoming part of the wider Seven Years' War in which Britain and France were part of opposing coalitions.
The war has been called the first "world war", because fighting took place on several different continents.10 In 1759 the British enjoyed victories over the French in Europe, Canada and India, severely weakening the French position around the world.11 In 1762 the British captured the cities of Manila and Havana from Spain, France's strongest ally, which led ultimately to a peace settlement the following year that saw a large number of territories come under British control.
The Seven Years' War is regarded as a critical moment in the history of Anglo-French relations, which laid the foundations for the dominance of the Anglosphere during the next two and a half centuries, and arguably the spread of democracy and English common law.12
The Anglo-American settlers had originally fought on the side of the British, but as some Americans grew dissatisfied with British policies the French saw an opportunity to undermine British overseas power. When the American War of Independence broke out in 1775, the French began sending covert supplies and intelligence to the American rebels.13
In 1778 France, hoping to capitalise on the British defeat at Saratoga, recognized the United States of America and signed a military alliance.14 France in 1779 persuaded its Spanish allies to declare war on Britain.15 France despatched troops to fight alongside the Americans, and besieged Gibraltar with Spain. Plans were drawn up, but never put into action, to launch an invasion of England.
The British were forced to withdraw forces from the American mainland to protect their more valuable possessions in the West Indies. While the French were initially unable to break the string of British victories, the combined actions of American and French forces, and a key victory by a French fleet over a British rescue fleet, forced the British into a decisive surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781.
In 1783 the Treaty of Paris gave the new nation control over most of the region east of the Mississippi River; Spain gained Florida from Britain; France received little except a huge debt. For a brief period after the war, Britain's naval power was subdued by an alliance between France and Spain.16
During the French Revolution, the anti-monarchical ideals of France were regarded with alarm throughout Europe. While France was plunged into chaos, Britain took advantage of its temporary weakness to stir up the civil war occurring in France and build up its naval forces. The Revolution was initially popular with many Britons, both because it appeared to weaken France and was perceived to be based on British liberal ideals. This began to change as the Jacobin faction took over, and began the Reign of Terror.18
The French were intent on spreading their revolutionary republicanism to other European states, including Britain. The British initially stayed out of the alliances of European states which unsuccessfully attacked France trying to restore the monarchy. In France a new, strong nationalism took hold enabling them to mobilise large and motivated forces.
Following the execution of King Louis XVI of France in 1793, Britain declared war on France. Except for a brief pause in the fighting from 1802–03, the war lasted continuously for twenty one years. During this time Britain raised several coalitions against the French, continually subsidising other European states with the Golden Cavalry of St George, enabling them to put large armies in the field. In spite of this, the French armies were very successful on land, creating several client states such as the Batavian Republic, and the British devoted much of their own forces to campaigns against the French in the Caribbean, with mixed results.
In 1798 French forces invaded Ireland to assist the United Irishmen who had launched a rebellion, where they were joined by thousands of rebels but defeated by British and Irish loyalist forces. The fear of further attempts to create a French satellite in Ireland, led to the Act of Union merging of the crowns of Great Britain and Ireland to create the United Kingdom in 1801.
In 1799, Napoleon came to power in France, ending the revolutionary era and creating a dictatorship (crowning himself Emperor in 1804). After he had triumphed on the European continent against the other major European powers, Napoleon contemplated an invasion of the British mainland, but was dissuaded by the annihilation of the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, coinciding with an Austrian attack over its Bavarian allies.
In response Napoleon established a continental system by which no nation was permitted to trade with the British. Napoleon hoped the embargo would isolate the British Isles severely weakening them, but a number of countries continued to trade with them in defiance of the policy. In spite of this, the Napoleonic influence stretched across much of Europe.
In 1808 French forces invaded Portugal trying to attempt to halt trade with the United Kingdom, turning Spain into a satellite state in the process.19 The British responded by dispatching a force under Sir Arthur Wellesley which captured Lisbon.20 Napoleon dispatched increasing forces into the Iberian Peninsula, which became the key battleground between the two nations. Allied with Spanish and Portuguese forces, the British inflicted a number of defeats on the French, confronted with a new kind of warfare called "guerrilla" which led Napoleon to brand it the "Spanish Ulcer". Allied to an increasingly resurgent European coalition, the British invaded southern France forcing Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile on Elba in 1814.21
After escaping and briefly threatening to restore the French Empire, Napoleon was defeated by combined British, Prussian and Dutch forces at Battle of Waterloo. With strong British support, the Bourbon monarchy was restored and Louis XVIII was crowned King of France. The Napoleonic era was the last occasion on which Britain and France went to war with each other, but by no means marked the end of the rivalry between the two nations. Despite his final defeat, Napoleon continues to be regarded as a national hero figure in France for his numerous victories over coalised monarchies.
Despite having entered the Napoleonic era regarded by many as a spent force, the UK had emerged from the 1815 Congress of Vienna as one of the leading financial, military and cultural powers of the world. France also recovered from the defeat at Waterloo to quickly retake its position on the world stage.
Despite their historic enmity, the British and French eventually became strained political allies, as both began to turn their attentions to acquiring new territories beyond Europe. The British developed India and Canada and settled Australia, spreading their powers to several different continents as the Second British Empire.
They frequently made stereotypical jokes about each other, and even side by side in war were critical of each other's tactics.
As a Royal Navy officer said to the French corsair Robert Surcouf "You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour.", Surcouf replied "Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most." According to one story, a French diplomat once said to Lord Palmerston "If I were not a Frenchman, I should wish to be an Englishman"; to which Palmerston replied: "If I were not an Englishman, I should wish to be an Englishman."22 According to another, upon seeing the disastrous British Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War against Russia, French marshal Pierre Bosquet said 'C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre.' ('It's magnificent, but it's not war.') Eventually, relations settled down as the two empires tried to consolidate themselves rather than extend themselves.
In 1830, France underwent the July Revolution, and the Orléanist Louis-Phillipe subsequently ascended to the throne; by contrast, the reign of Queen Victoria began in 1837 in a much more peaceful fashion. The major European powers—Russia, Austria, the UK, and to some extent Prussia—were determined to keep France in check, and so France generally pursued a cautious foreign policy. Louis-Phillipe allied with Britain, the country with which France shared the most similar form of government, and its combative Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston. In Louis-Philippe's first year in power, he refused to annex Belgium during its revolution, instead following the British line of supporting independence. Despite posturings from leading French minister Adolphe Thiers in 1839–1840 that France would protect the increasingly powerful Muhammad Ali of Egypt (a viceroy of the Ottoman Empire), any reinforcements were not forthcoming, and in 1840, much to France's embarrassment, Ali was forced to sign the Convention of London by the powers. Relations cooled again under the governments of François Guizot and Robert Peel. They soured once more in 1846 though when, with Palmerston back as Foreign Secretary, the French government hastily agreed to have Isabella II of Spain and her sister marry members of the Bourbon and Orléanist dynasties, respectively. Palmerston had hoped to arrange a marriage, and "The Affair of the Spanish Marriages" has generally been viewed unfavourably by British historians ("By the dispassionate judgment of history it has been universally condemned"),23 although a more sympathetic view has been taken in recent years.24
Lord Aberdeen (foreign secretary 1841–46) brokered an entente cordiale with François Guizot and France in the early 1840s. However Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected president of France in 1848 and made himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1851. Napoleon III had an expansionist foreign policy, which saw the French deepen the colonisation of Africa and establish new colonies, in particular Indochina. The British were initially alarmed, and commissioned a series of forts in southern England designed to resist a French invasion. Lord Palmerston as foreign minister and prime minister had close personal ties with leading French statesmen, notably Napoleon III himself. Palmerston's goal was to arrange peaceful relations with France in order to free Britain's diplomatic hand elsewhere in the world.25 Napoleon had a very pro-British foreign policy, and was eager not to displease the British government whose friendship he saw as important to France.
The two nations were military allies during the Crimean War (1853–56) to curb Russia's expansion westwards and its threats to the Ottoman Empire. However when London discovered that Napoleon III was secretly negotiating with Russia to form a postwar alliance to dominate Europe, it hastily abandoned its plan to end the war by attacking St. Petersburg. Instead Britain concluded an armistice with Russia that achieved none of its war aims.26
The two nations also co-operated during the Second Opium War with China, dispatching a joint force to the Chinese capital Peking to force a treaty on the Chinese Qing Dynasty. In 1859 Napoleon, bypassing the Corps législatif which he feared would not approve of free trade, met with influential reformer Richard Cobden, and in 1860 the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty was signed between the two countries, reducing tariffs on goods sold between the UK and France.27
During the American Civil War both nations remained neutral. France came close to entering on the side of the Confederate States of America. The cutoff of cotton shipments caused economic depression in the textile industry, resulting in widespread unemployment and suffering among workers, and support for an intervention that would reopen the trade.28 In the end Britain refused to go to war and France followed suit.
Napoleon attempted to gain British support for a scheme to put an Austrian Prince, Maximilian I, on the throne of Mexico, but the British were not willing to support any action other than the collection of debts owed by the Mexicans. This forced the French to act alone in the French Intervention in Mexico. The U.S. helped the Juarez regime and France pulled out its troops. Its puppet Emperor Maximilian was executed by the Mexicans.29
When Napoleon was overthrown in 1870, he fled to England where he and his family lived in exile. The new French Third Republic continued a policy of the warm relations with Britain, especially following the creation of the German Empire.
In the 1875-1898 era, tensions were high, especially over African issues. At several points war was possible, but it never happened.30 One brief but dangerous dispute occurred during the Fashoda Incident when French troops tried to claim an area in the Southern Sudan, and a British force purporting to be acting in the interests of the Khedive of Egypt arrived.31 Under heavy pressure the French withdrew securing Anglo-Egyptian control over the area. The status quo was recognised by an agreement between the two states acknowledging British control over Egypt, while France became the dominant power in Morocco. France was humiliated by the result.3233
During the Scramble for Africa in the 1870s and 1880s, the British and French generally recognised each other's spheres of influence. The Suez Canal, initially built by the French, became a joint British-French project in 1875, as both saw it as vital to maintaining their influence and empires in Asia.34 In 1882, ongoing civil disturbances in Egypt (see Urabi Revolt) prompted Britain to intervene, extending a hand to France. France's expansionist Prime Minister Jules Ferry was out of office, and the government was unwilling to send more than an intimidatory fleet to the region. Britain established a protectorate, as France had a year earlier in Tunisia, and popular opinion in France later put this action down to duplicity.35 It was about this time that the two nations established co-ownership of Vanuatu. The Anglo-French Convention of 1882 was also signed to resolve territory disagreements in western Africa.
From about 1900, Francophiles in Britain and Anglophiles in France began to spread a study and mutual respect and love of the culture of the country on the other side of the English Channel. Francophile and Anglophile societies developed, further introducing Britain to French food and wine, and France to English sports like rugby. French and English were already the second languages of choice in Britain and France respectively. Eventually this developed into a political policy as the new united Germany was seen as a potential threat. Louis Blériot, for example, crossed the Channel in an aeroplane in 1909. Many saw this as symbolic of the connection between the two countries.
This period in the first decade of the 20th century became known as the Entente cordiale, and continued in spirit until the 1940s. The signing of the Entente Cordiale marked also the end of almost a millennium of intermittent conflict between the two nations and their predecessor states, and the formalisation of the peaceful co-existence that had existed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Up to the 1920s, relations between Britain and France were closer than those between Britain and the US.36 This also started the beginning of France and England Special Relationship.
There was strong co-operation between the British and French forces. The battles took place on several different fronts, but most particularly to Anglo-French relations in the trenches in France and Belgium against the Germans. Unable to advance against the combined primary alliance powers of the British, French, and later American forces as well as the blockade preventing shipping reaching German controlled North Sea seaports, the Germans eventually surrendered after four years of heavy fighting.
Following the war, at the Treaty of Versailles the British and French worked closely together, as their interests were largely similar. Both countries were interested in creating a weakened Germany, as opposed to a more moderate American position. Both were also keen to protect and expand their empires, in the face of calls for self-determination. On a visit to London, French leader Georges Clemenceau was hailed by the British crowds. Lloyd George was given a similar reception in Paris.37
Both states joined the League of Nations, and both signed agreements of defence of several countries, most significantly Poland. The Treaty of Sèvres split the Middle East between the two states, in the form of mandates. However the outlook of the nations were different during the inter-war years; while France saw itself inherently as a European power, Britain enjoyed close relationships with Australia, Canada and New Zealand and at one time flirted with the idea of Empire Free Trade, a form of protectionism that would have seen large tariffs placed on goods from France, but drew back.
Premier and Finance Minister Raymond Poincare made it a policy to stabilise the franc to protect against political currency manipulation by Germany and Britain in the early 1920s. He stabilised the franc in 1926 and turned the tables, using short-term financial advantage as leverage against Britain in major policy matters.38
In the 1930s Britain and France coordinated their policies toward the aggressive dictatorships of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. However public opinion did not support going to war again, so the diplomats sought diplomatic solutions, but none worked. Efforts to use the League of Nations to apply sanctions against Italy for its invasion of Ethiopia failed. France supported the "Little Entente" of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. It proved much too weak to deter Hitler.39
The Anglo-German Naval Agreement was signed between the Britain and Nazi Germany in 1935, allowing Hitler to reinforce his Kriegsmarine. It was regarded by the French as the ruining of the anti-Hitlerian Stresa front.
In the years leading up to World War II, both countries followed a similar diplomatic path of appeasement of Germany. As Nazi intentions became clear, France pushed for a harder line but the British demurred, believing diplomacy could solve the disputes. The result was the Munich Agreement of 1938 that gave Germany control of parts of Czechoslovakia settled by Germans. In early 1939 Germany took over all of Czechoslovakia and began threatening Poland. Appeasement had failed, and both Britain and France raced to catch up with Germany in weaponry.40
After guaranteeing the independence of Poland, both declared war on Germany on the same day, the 3rd of September 1939, after the Germans ignored an ultimatum to withdraw from the country. When Germany began its attack on France in 1940, British troops and French troops again fought side by side. Eventually, after the Germans came through the Ardennes, it became clear that France would not be able to fend off the German attack, and Winston Churchill pledged that the United Kingdom would continue to fight for France's freedom, even if it must do so alone. The final bond between the two nations was so strong that members of the British cabinet had proposed a temporary union of the two countries for the sake of morale: the plan was drawn up by Jean Monnet, who later created the Common Market. The idea was not popular with a majority on either side, and the French government felt that, in the circumstances, the plan for union would reduce France to the level of a British Dominion. The proposal was turned down, shortly before France fell to the Germans. The Free French resistance, led by Charles de Gaulle, were formed in London, after de Gaulle gave his famous 'Appeal of the 18th of June', widely broadcast by the BBC.
In southern France a collaborative government known as Vichy France was set up, allied to Germany. The British were soon at war with the Vichy state, destroying much of its navy and moving into many of its colonies, such as Senegal, on behalf of the Free French government.
Following D-Day, relations between the two peoples were at a high, as the British were greeted as liberators. Following the surrender of Germany in 1945, the UK and France became close as both feared the Americans would withdraw from Europe leaving them vulnerable to the Soviet Union's expanding communist bloc. The UK strongly advocated that France be given a zone of occupied Germany. Both states were amongst the five Permanent Members of the new UN Security Council, where they commonly collaborated.
In 1956 the Suez Canal, previously owned by an Anglo-French company, was nationalised by the Egyptian government. The British and the French were both strongly committed to taking the canal back by force.41 Both the British and French governments saw the actions of the Egypt president Gamal Abdel Nasser as potentially dangerous to their interests in trade, and within the framework of the Cold War and the tensions of the newly independent. During the initial stages of the crisis, French Prime Minister Guy Mollet proposed a union between Britain and France, but the British were less enthusiastic. British Prime Minister Anthony Eden called it a "good idea in substance" but thought it "a bit premature".42
The Americans, while opposed to Nasser, refused to become involved with what many regarded as European colonialism, putting severe strain on the Anglo-American special relationship. The relations between Britain and France were not entirely harmonious, as the French kept the British in the dark about the involvement of Israel until very close to the commencement of military operations.43
Immediately after the Suez crisis Anglo-French relations started to sour again, and only since the last decades of the 20th century have they begun to improve and climb towards the peak they did in the years between 1900 and 1940.
Shortly after this, France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg formed what would become the European Economic Community and later the European Union, and took the decision to reject British requests for membership. In particular, President Charles de Gaulle's attempts to exclude the British from European affairs during the beginning of France's Fifth Republic are now seen by many in Britain to be a betrayal of the strong bond between the countries, and Anthony Eden's exclusion of France from the Commonwealth is seen in a similar light in France. The French partly feared that were the British to join the EEC they would attempt to dominate it.
Over the years, the UK and France have often taken diverging courses within the European Community. British policy has favoured an expansion of the Community and free trade while France has advocated protectionism and restricting membership of the Community to a core of Western European states.
In 1958 with France mired in a seemingly unwinnable war in Algeria, Charles de Gaulle, the wartime leader of the Free French, returned to power in France. He created the Fifth French Republic, ending the post-war parliamentary system and replacing it with a strong Presidency, which became dominated by his followers—the Gaullists.
De Gaulle made ambitious changes to French foreign policy—first ending the war in Algeria, and then withdrawing France from the NATO command structure. De Gaulle declared a new policy of "in every direction", meaning that French military forces were prepared to fight a war against the UK and the United Statescitation needed as much as they were against the Soviet Union.
In 1967 de Gaulle visited Quebec, a French-speaking province of Canada and spoke out in favour of its independence. This was perceived as a snub to the English-speaking world, and the British in particular because of the close relationship between Britain and Canada. It was poorly received in Britain and was criticized even in the French press,44 and it was opposed by many French and French-Canadians including the future Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, a French-Canadian from Montreal.45 He also vetoed the UK's first attempt to enter the European Communities.
When de Gaulle resigned in 1969, a new French government under Georges Pompidou were prepared to open a more friendly dialogue with Britain and, although they did not reverse much of De Gaulle's foreign policycitation needed, they removed their objections to British membership of the EEC opening the way for the United Kingdom to join the Common Market in 1973.
These differing points of view came to a head in the lead-up to the 2003 War in Iraq. Britain and its American ally strongly advocated the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein while France (with China, Russia, and other nations) strongly opposed such action, with French President Jacques Chirac threatening to veto any resolution proposed to the UN Security Council. However, despite such differences Chirac and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained a fairly close relationship during their years in office even after the Iraq War started.46 Both states asserted the importance of the Entente cordiale alliance, and the role it had played during the twentieth century.
Following his election in 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to forge closer relations between France and the United Kingdom: in March 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that "there has never been greater cooperation between France and Britain as there is now".48 Sarkozy also urged both countries to "overcome our long-standing rivalries and build together a future that will be stronger because we will be together".49 He also said "If we want to change Europe my dear British friends—and we Frenchmen do wish to change Europe—we need you inside Europe to help us do so, not standing on the outside."50 On 26 March 2008, Sarkozy had the privilege of giving a speech to both British Houses of Parliament, where he called for a "brotherhood" between the two countries51 and stated that "France will never forget Britain's war sacrifice" during World War II.52
In March 2008, Sarkozy made a state visit to Britain. He attended a state dinner with Elizabeth II and addressed a joint session of the British parliament where he promised closer cooperation between the two countries' governments in the future.53
On 18 June 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy went to London to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Appeal of 18 June, with notably David Cameron and the Prince of Wales, in a way that was considered to be a strong affirmation of the French-British friendship.545556 He is the first French president to go to London to commemorate this event.57 Sarkozy notably declared that he and the French delegation "come as friends, and friends who remember the past and what France owes you"58
On 2 November 2010, France and the UK signed two defence co-operation treaties. They provide for the sharing of aircraft carriers, a 1000-strong joint reaction force, a common nuclear simulation centre in France, a common nuclear research centre in the UK, sharing air-refuelling tankers and joint training.5960
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The Entente Cordiale Scholarship scheme is a selective Franco-British scholarship scheme which was announced on the 30th October 1995 by British Prime Minister John Major and French President Jacques Chirac at an Anglo-French summit in London.61
It provides funding for British and French students to study for one academic year on the other side of the Channel. The scheme is administered by the French embassy in London for British students,62 and by the British Council France and the UK embassy in Paris for French students.6364 Funding is provided by the private sector and foundations. The scheme aims to favour mutual understanding and to promote exchanges between the British and French leaders of tomorrow.
There have been some major patriotic issues between the French and British scientific communities, despite overall cooperation. As a first example, Newtonian mechanics was not generally accepted in France for about half a century because of what was seen as a competing formulation by Descartes.citation needed As a second example of stiff competition, the scandal about which of the two countries deserves credit for the discovery of the planet Neptune has still not died down, though the consensus weighs in Britain's favour.citation needed
In general, France is regarded with favour by Britain in regard to its high culture and is seen as an ideal holiday destination, whilst France sees Britain as a major trading partner. Both countries are famously contemptuous of each other's cooking, many French claiming all British food is bland and boring, whilst many British claim that French food is inedible. Much of the apparent disdain for French food and culture in Britain takes the form of self-effacing humour, and British comedy often uses French culture as the butt of its jokes. Whether this is representative of true opinion or not is open to debate.
French classical music has always been popular in Britain. British popular music is in turn popular in France. English literature, in particular the works of Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare, have been immensely popular in France. French artist Eugène Delacroix based many of his paintings on scenes from Shakespeare's plays. In turn, French writers such as Molière and Voltaire have been translated numerous times into English. In general, most of the more popular books in either language are translated into the other.
The most common second language taught in schools in Britain is French, and the most commonly taught second language in France is English. Those are also the ones perceived as "most useful to learn" in both countries.6667 French is a large minority language and immigrant language in the United Kingdom, with over 300,000 French-born people in the UK. According to a 2006 European Commission report, 23 percent of UK residents are able to carry on a conversation in French.68 French is also an official language in both Jersey and Guernsey. Both use French to some degree, mostly in an administrative or ceremonial capacity. Jersey Legal French is the standardized variety used in Jersey. However, Norman (in its local forms, Guernésiais and Jèrriais) is the historical vernacular of the islands.
Both languages have influenced each other throughout the years. According to different sources, nearly 30% of all English words have a French origin, and today many French expressions have entered the English language as well.69 Also, the term Franglais, a portmanteau combining the French words "français" and "anglais", has been recently coined to refer to the combination of French and English (mostly in the UK) or the use of English words and nouns of Anglo-Saxon roots in French (in France).
Modern and Middle English reflect a mixture of Oïl and Old English lexicons after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, when a Norman-speaking aristocracy took control of a population whose mother tongue was Germanic in origin. Due to the intertwined histories of England and continental possessions of the English Crown, many formal and legal words from Modern English have French roots. Therefore words such as buy and sell are of Germanic origin, purchase and vend are from Old French.
In the sport of rugby union there is a rivalry between England and France. Both countries compete in the Six Nations Championship and the Rugby World Cup. England have the edge in both tournaments having the most outright wins in the Six Nations (and its previous version the Five Nations), and most recently knocking the French sides out of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups at the semifinal stage and France knocked England out of the rugby World Cup 2011 with a convincing score in their quarter final match. Though rugby is originally a British sport, French rugby has developed to such an extent that the English and French teams are now stiff competitors, with neither side greatly superior to the other.
The influence of French players and coaches on British football has been increasing in recent years and is often cited as an example of Anglo-French cooperation. In particular the Premier League club Arsenal has become known for its Anglo-French connection due to a heavy influx of French players since the advent of French manager Arsène Wenger in 1996. In March 2008 their Emirates stadium was chosen as the venue for a meeting during a state visit by the French President precisely for this reason.70 Despite rivalry in rugby, there is no significant rivalry between the international football teams.citation needed
Many people blamed the then French President Jacques Chirac for contributing to Paris' loss to London in its bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics after he made deregatory remarks about British cuisine and saying that "only Finnish food is worse". The IOC committee which would ultimately decide to give the games to London had two members from Finland.71
The busiest seaway in the world, the English Channel, connects ports in Great Britain such as Dover, Newhaven, Poole, Weymouth and Plymouth to ports such as Calais, Boulogne, Dunkerque, Dieppe, Cherbourg-Octeville, Caen, St Malo and Le Havre in mainland France. Companies such as P&O Ferries, DFDS Seaways and LD Lines operate ferry services across the Channel.
The Channel Tunnel (French: Le tunnel sous la Manche; also referred to as the Chunnel)7273 is a 50.5-kilometre (31.4 mi) undersea rail tunnel (linking Folkestone, Kent, in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais, near the city of Calais in northern France) beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. Ideas for a cross-Channel fixed link appeared as early as 1802,7475 but British political and press pressure over compromised national security stalled attempts to construct a tunnel.76 The eventual successful project, organised by Eurotunnel, began construction in 1988 and was opened by British Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterrand in a ceremony held in Calais on 6 May 1994. The same year the American Society of Civil Engineers elected the Channel Tunnel as one of the seven modern Wonders of the World.77
11,675,910 passengers in 2008 travelled on flights between the United Kingdom and France.78
- Aberdeen, and Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne
- Aylesbury, and Bourg-en-Bresse, Ain
- Basingstoke, Hampshire and Alençon, Lower Normandy
- Bath, Bath and North East Somerset and Aix-en-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
- Birmingham, West Midlands and Lyon, Rhône-Alpes
- Bolton, Greater Manchester and Le Mans, Sarthe
- Bristol, City of Bristol and Bordeaux, Gironde
- Bury, Greater Manchester and Angoulême, Poitou-Charentes
- Cardiff and Nantes, Pays de la Loire
- Chelmsford, Essex and Annonay, Rhône-Alpes
- Chippenham, Wiltshire and La Flèche, Sarthe
- Cockermouth, Cumbria and Marvejols, Lozère
- Droylsden, Tameside and Villemomble, Île-de-France
- Dorchester, Dorset and Bayeux, Normandy
- Dundee and Orléans, Centre
- Ealing, London and Marcq-en-Barœul, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
- East Preston, West Sussex and Brou, Eure-et-Loir, Centre
- Edinburgh and Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
- Exeter, Devon and Rennes, Brittany
- Farnborough, Hampshire and Meudon, Île-de-France
- Glasgow and Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
- Harrogate, North Yorkshire and Luchon, Haute-Garonne
- Inverness and Saint-Valery-en-Caux, Upper Normandy
- Ipswich, Suffolk and Arras, Pas-de-Calais
- Leeds, West Yorkshire and Lille, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
- Lichfield, Staffordshire and Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, Rhône-Alpes
- Littlehampton, West Sussex and Chennevières-sur-Marne, Île-de-France
- Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and Agen, Aquitaine
- London and Paris, Île-de-France
- Northampton, Northamptonshire and Poitiers, Poitou-Charentes
- Norwich, East Anglia and Rouen, Upper Normandy
- Oxford, Oxfordshire and Grenoble, Rhône-Alpes
- Perth and Cognac, Poitou-Charentes
- Plymouth and Brest, Brittany
- Spelthorne, Surrey and Melun, Ile-de-France
- Salford, Greater Manchester and Clermont-Ferrand, Auvergne
- Preston, Lancashire and Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon
- Stalybridge, Tameside and Armentières, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
- Stockport, Greater Manchester and Béziers, Languedoc-Roussillon
- Sunderland, Tyne & Wear and Saint Nazaire, Brittany
- Watford, Hertfordshire and Suresnes, Île-de-France
- Ware, Hertfordshire and Cormeilles-en-Parisis, Île-de-France
- Wigan, Greater Manchester and Angers, Maine et Loire
- Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside and Lorient, Brittany
- Woking, Surrey and Le Plessis-Robinson, Île-de-France
There are lists of twinnings (including those to towns in other countries) at List of twin towns and sister cities in France and at List of twin towns and sister cities in the United Kingdom.
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