Saturday, 25 October 2008


October 25th is the feast of St Crispin and the anniversary of the great Battle of Agincourt at which Henry V's English longbowmen routed the French, against very unfavourable odds.

But the French didn't like it, and so today, on this anniversary, a number of (not very rigorous) French academics are holding a revisionist seminar somewhere across the Channel in an attempt to demonstrate that the English didn't win the battle fair and square but cheated somehow by having a larger army than was believed up till now and by resorting not just to dirty tricks but to actual war crimes - against the French losers. 

Bad losers, the French. I remember some debate several years ago when they objected to Waterloo Station as an insult to French people arriving off the boat train (no such trouble with the new Eurostar terminal at neutral St Pancras - so that one was sorted). And I remember my friend's French husband berating me at his home in the Marne (so much for Gallic hospitality) with a tale about Winston Churchill - in person, so it looked like from the rant,  scuttling the French fleet in World War II. The fact that this was to prevent the Nazis getting hold of extra warships after walking, virtually unresisted, into France in 1940, seems to have been the sort of minor 'detail' that French fascist of our times, Jean-Marie Le Pen  (another bad loser and revisionist) calls the Holocaust. I can't understand these hordes of (non French-speaking) English people moving to France,  as though to some Gallic Arcadia. The great de Gaulle, remember, didn't want the British in the Common Market, a particularly petulant gesture of ingratitude after we housed him in London throughout the war and gave credence to his empty title as leader of the 'Free French', though he was as happy to get into bed with the Germans in the 1960s as the Vichy collaborators were in the 1940s (just read Irene Nemirovsky's 'Suite Francaise' on the antics of the French during the war, and you'll get what I mean).  I've lived in France twice, one time in Brittany, which is a sort of French Cornwall, and once in Paris. There won't be a third time. As The Sun once put it, in the red-top's inimitable style: HOP OFF YOU FROGS!

I shared Laurence Olivier's (as Henry V) patriotic sentiments about England, driving up to Sussex and back last week in the autumn sunshine through villages that were probably around at the time of Agincourt and which may even have recruited archers for the battle. Ours is a lovely, gentle country and needs make no meek and mild apology to the French, much less kow-tow to them in the name of some fondly imagined 'superiority' of culture, lifestyle, language, and cuisine. The French only need to maintain this superior supposition because they are losers. And bad losers at that. Enough said. 

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