Monday, January 15, 2007

Kippers and croissants

The news that France requested a merger with England* in the 1950s seems to come as a surprise to many but it shouldn’t. We go back a long way, ever since William the Conqueror came over and invaded us with Normans. Granted, the period that followed was a little confusing, with bits of France belonging to England and vice-versa…but in 1338, Edward III of England decided that he was going to be the next king of France and so started the hundred years’ war.

We did pretty well for a while, massacring the French at the famous Battle of Agincourt (1415), for example and also at lesser known battles such as the Battle of the Herrings (1429) where the French were repelled by a convoy of English fish, headed for the besieged Orleans (nothing new there - even today, English food defeats them). Unfortunately, Joan of Arc started hearing voices and spoilt it all. The English – led by Sir John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury – were finally defeated at the battle of Castillon, near Bordeaux, in 1453. Sir John Talbot was killed and his body brought back to Shropshire where his heart lies beneath the porch of St Alkmund’s church in my home tome of Whitchurch. Since then, the English and French have maintained a love-hate relationship: the English are still convinced that France should belong to them and the French think England is a nation of kipper-guzzling hooligans…

So. As I said, we go back a long way. And if the merger had transpired, who knows? Perhaps the English would have discovered how to make coffee and the French might have learnt how to laugh at themselves…

* I know, I know - I should say Britain but it just doesn't roll off my tongue like England does... which is strange, given that I'm half-Irish and half-Welsh...

3 comments:

Doug (amateur French historian) said...

I think that the English media have over-stated this story to make it more interesting. There were no plans for France and UK to join:
- Only one person is known to have proposed it. Granted, he was the leader of France, but he was still doing it as an individual as he did not have the backing or even knowledge of the French executive.
- The word used in the documents was "union". A union could be anything (after all the EU was a union which had very limited influence until recently).
- In any case, the documentation for this claim is limited and unsubstantiated.

It makes for an amusing story, but not much more.

Gigi said...

Hmm...just goes to show - you can't believe everything you read!

rowhedgepastor said...

Get a sense of humour Doug! Personally I think it was a great idea and look forward to the idea being resurrected in the not too distant future!

Although I strongly suspect we might fall out with you over cheese or something important like that.

Viva la erm....