January 15, 2007


When Britain and France nearly married (Mike Thomson, 1/15/07, BBC)

Formerly secret documents unearthed from the National Archives have showed Britain and France considered a "union" in the 1950s.

On 10 September 1956 French Prime Minister Guy Mollet arrived in London for talks with his British counterpart, Anthony Eden. [...]

[W]hen Eden turned down his request for a union between France and Britain the French prime minister came up with another proposal.

This time, while Eden was on a visit to Paris, he requested that France be allowed to join the British Commonwealth.

A secret document from 28 September 1956 records the surprisingly enthusiastic way the British premier responded to the proposal when he discussed it with his Cabinet Secretary, Sir Norman Brook.

It says: "Sir Norman Brook asked to see me this morning and told me he had come up from the country consequent on a telephone conversation from the prime minister who is in Wiltshire.

"The PM told him on the telephone that he thought in the light of his talks with the French:

* "That we should give immediate consideration to France joining the Commonwealth

* "That Monsieur Mollet had not thought there need be difficulty over France accepting the headship of her Majesty

* "That the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the Irish basis"

Seeing these words for the first time, Henri Soutou, professor of contemporary history at Paris's Sorbonne University almost fell off his chair.

Stammering repeatedly he said: "Really I am stuttering because this idea is so preposterous. The idea of joining the Commonwealth and accepting the headship of Her Majesty would not have gone down well. If this had been suggested more recently Mollet might have found himself in court."

They've been on the wrong path since 1789. It was probably too late by 1950, getting off it sooner would have been better than later.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 15, 2007 10:09 AM

Frankly, given the state of Britain at the time, there was as much chance of France dragging Britain down into the muck as Britain raising France up to the Anglospheric heights.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 15, 2007 10:33 AM

Churchill proposed union between Britain and France in 1940, to fight the Nazis. France was too busy surrendering.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at January 15, 2007 2:34 PM

The Ravens would be long gone from the tower of London had this idea become reality.

Posted by: Dave W at January 15, 2007 5:17 PM