Posted by: sean | January 16, 2007

A Franco-British merger?

In one of the most surprising things I’ve read in a while, the Guardian reported that PM Guy Mollet went to London in 1956 to discuss joining the United Kingdom with PM Anthony Eden, exploring the possibility of the Queen becoming the titular head of state in France. According to the Guardian,

When Mr Mollet’s request for a union failed, he quickly responded with another plan – that France be allowed to join the British commonwealth – which was said to have been met more warmly by Sir Anthony.

A document dated September 28 1956 records a conversation between the prime minister and his cabinet secretary, Sir Norman Brook, saying:

“The PM told him [Brook] 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.”
  • Even if such unions are discussed to this day, between Sudan and Egypt and between Somalia and Ethiopia, for example, it seems unthinkable for this to happen as late as the 1950s between two major players like the UK and France. This news is kind of revelation must be a little embarrassing for France, and it just seems really, really odd considering French aversion to the idea of monarchy, not to mention Gallic pride.

    A British friend of mine in Paris sent this article to his French girlfriend, who responded this way:

    The UK was a “staunch French ally during the two world wars”? As far as I know the UK didn’t want to back de Gaulle and sided with the US. And they sank all the French military boats stationed in the Channel so that the Germans wouldn’t capture them and invade England – and they didn’t even bother to warn the French about their upcoming air-raid on French boats so hundreds of Frenchmen died under British fire.

    Nope, really, not much of a staunch ally as far as this side of the sea is concerned…

    [Mollet] would have been hanged if he’d even mentioned this in France.


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