Today marks the 110th anniversary of the signing of the entente cordiale between Britain and France – a move that ended the political antagonism between the two countries. Up to a point, at least.
The agreement fell short of an all-out alliance, but, as its French name suggests, was an understanding between the two.
It stemmed from an idea by France’s then foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, who felt the agreement would bolster France’s position against Germany’s network of alliances among its neighbours. It also played to British nervousness about being politically isolated in Europe and helped to settle colonial disputes between London and Paris. As a result, Britain gained a free hand in Egypt and France did the same in Morocco.
The deal was brokered by Paris’ ambassador in Britain, Paul Cambon. Britain’s foreign secretary, Lord Lansdowne, saw to it that it was agreed in London, with a little support from the pro-French king, Edward VII.
Although it held no military commitment, the agreement helped the two countries hold talks that would serve them well when war came ten years later.
In today’s European Union, the notion of an entente cordiale seems terribly quaint. Mind you, relations between the two countries can still sometimes be spiky, so maybe it has a place all the same.