This year of 2015, we celebrate the 800th anniversary of one of the founding documents of English law, the Magna Carta. This was agreed between King John and his rebel barons in 1215. And actually one of the prominent barons at that time was Prince Louis, who went on to be King Louis VIII of France.
So this is the time of year when I look back at what we’ve achieved and 2014 will stay in my mind a long time as a year of anniversaries. We’ve had the 20th anniversary of the Channel Tunnel, and the Queen unveiled a little plaque to commemorate that at Saint Pancras when she was coming here in June.
I’m really proud that the British Council team here in Paris have been leading the campaign with the Council to remember the football truce, that extraordinary moment around Christmas of 1914 when British and German soldiers got out of their trenches around Ypres (but we think also in some areas in France) and ended up playing football together in no man’s land.
I had the great good fortune to participate in two very different ceremonies to commemorate this 11th of November a hundred years after the start of the First World War.
Two hundred years ago this week, the British Government paid Pauline Borghese 800,000 Francs for this wonderful house behind me, the Hôtel de Charost. And it has been the British Ambassadors’ Residence ever since then.
The British actress Emma Watson is a UN Ambassador for women’s issues and she made her first speech at the UN a few days ago, launching a campaign on gender equality. I think she put her finger on a very important point, which is that gender equality is not a woman’s issue, it’s a man’s issue.
Today I represented the UK at the commemoration of the Battle of the Marne, which raged for 5 days from 5 September 1914 and was one of the turning points of WW1. From the start of the War in early August, the German Armies advanced relentlessly across Belgium and into France. The French forces, and the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that had come to join them, fell back under the … The Battle of the Marne
Rummaging in my library, I found the following blog-post left by my predecessor, with remarkable prescience, to be posted exactly 100 years later! It recounts a dramatic meeting that really did take place in the Residence on 1 September 1914 directly related to the conduct of the War, and in which my predecessor took a courageous stand. As he recounts… What a day it has been! I am leaving … Guest blog: Sir Francis Bertie meets Sir John French and Lord Kitchener in Paris
Now we’re in the summer season, millions of British people, literally, come to France every year, and almost everyone has a wonderful holiday. That’s obviously what we want in the Embassy as well.
I think one of the most important parts of my job as ambassador is to make sure that the links between Britain and France are continuing into the next generation.