England has plenty of sports. We invented football and rugby, and we even enjoy cricket (which is, let’s face it, a feat…). But today’s most fashionable sport according to our citizens is bashing those French bastards. Personally, I think that frog hunting has become the national sport. There is no dearth of brilliant inspiration-seeking authors here who write books about our bloody neighbours. Being interested in this phenomenon, and being as cool as I could be as an Englishman, I tried to figure out why do we get so obsessed about France, which frankly, sometimes resembles a disguised love declaration. Could it be that we, the proud Albion, are jealous of our Gallic neighbours?
Being a scientist (I am a PhD in biology), I first wondered when did we first meet our neighbours, the origins of the relations between our countries. And I scratched my heard. And I recalled our boring (even off-putting) History of the United Kingdom and especially the Battle of Hastings. For those (Oh Lord, there are loads of them) who fell slept through their history classes, let me remind you the chapters. Armed with approximately 600 ships and 7000 men, William the Conqueror took over the English crown in 1066, thus putting an end to the Saxon lords’ reign, establishing a centralized monarchy devoted to a Norman King. So could it be true that Frenchmen can win battles?
Historians say, this conquest was the starting point of an astonishing wind of change for our precious island. The loss of the Battle of Hastings was, after all, a godsend. From the shambles of the Shires emerged a centralised administration modus, the backbone of our might. The Norman Kings made of our little island one of the Middle-Age’s greatest powers in Western Europe. This conquest also changed our culture. The face of England transformed in the 11th century, thanks to the building of cathedrals and fortified castles. To cut the long story short, our country wouldn’t probably have been the one we know without our best enemies.
This led me to wonder: what do we really owe to France? Googling some key words, I found even our language was a mix of Saxon languages and Norman languages. Not even remotely do we have a clue about the number of words that we “stole” from Old French. Rumours say that the Royal Family members might have been enthroned during a ceremony in French. And when the Queen demands, she does it “en français”.
Now, shall we talk about the economy? One of the most heard versions is that, to strengthen their might, the Norman lords returned back to their homelands. But a deeper study of the question reveals that the conquest actually fuelled our island’s economic development. For them, the recently acquired English lands were undoubtedly crucial to their will of power. Contrary to the widespread belief, the French did contribute to our development even though we are not a part of the Mainland.
What do we learn from this very little retrospective of our common history? Could it be that we are actually French in disguise? Are we, like Charles de Gaulle said, “a colony that went wrong”? As a proud Englishman, I couldn’t disagree more. The St George’s cross will always remain in my heart (and I hope in yours too). But, just as the French easily admit the Italian influence on their arts, maybe could we also accept that we are one of the greatest powers in the world and that those bloody snails influence’s contributed to our might to that….
“Honni soit qui mal y pense”
Collectif Au Top La France