Entente cordiale

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Entente cordiale
A 1904 French postcard showing Britannia and Marianne dancing together, symbolizing the newborn cooperation between the two countries.
Signed8 April 1904
Signatories France
 United Kingdom
LanguagesFrench, English
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Entente cordiale
A 1904 French postcard showing Britannia and Marianne dancing together, symbolizing the newborn cooperation between the two countries.
Signed8 April 1904
Signatories France
 United Kingdom
LanguagesFrench, English
Foreign alliances of France
Frankish-Abbasid alliance8th–9th c.
Franco-Scottish alliance1295–1560
Franco-Polish alliance1524–1526
Franco-Hungarian alliance1528–1552
Franco-Ottoman alliance16–19th c.
Anglo-French Alliance1657–1660
American Indians17–18th c.
Anglo-French Alliance1716–1731
Franco-Spanish alliance1733–1792
Franco-Prussian alliance1741–1756
Franco-Austrian alliance1756–1792
Franco-Indian alliances18th c.
Franco-Vietnamese alliance1777–1820
Franco-American alliance1778–1794
Franco-Persian alliance1807–1809
Franco-Russian alliance1892–1917
Entente cordiale1904–present
Franco-Polish alliance1921–1940
Franco-Italian Alliance1935
Franco-Soviet Treaty1936–1939
WEU(1948) 1954–2011
Regional relations
France–Asia relations
France–Americas relations
France–Africa relations

The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and France, marking the start of the alliance against Germany and Austria-Hungary that fought the First World War.[1] Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a thousand years of intermittent conflict between the two states and their predecessors, and replaced the modus vivendi that had existed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 with a more formal agreement. The Entente Cordiale, along with the Anglo-Russian Entente and the Franco-Russian Alliance, later became part of the Triple Entente among Britain, France, and Russia.[2]

The agreement settled many long-standing issues. France recognized British control over Egypt, while Britain reciprocated regarding France in Morocco. France gave up its exclusive fishery rights on the French Shore of Newfoundland and in return received an indemnity and territory in The Gambia (Senegal) and Nigeria. Britain acknowledged the French customs régime in Madagascar. The respective spheres of influence were defined in Siam (Thailand).[3]


A cartoon on the Entente Cordiale from the German perspective, with John Bull stalking off with the harlot Marianne (in what is supposed to be a Tricolour dress; see tincture), turning his back on the Kaiser. The tip of the scabbard of a cavalry sabre protrudes from beneath Germany's army overcoat, implying a potential resort to force.

The French term Entente Cordiale (usually translated as "cordial agreement" or "cordial understanding") comes from a letter written in 1843 by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen to his brother, in which he mentioned 'a cordial, good understanding' between the two nations. This was translated into French as Entente Cordiale and used by Louis Philippe I in the French Chamber that year.[4] When used today the term almost always denotes the second Entente Cordiale, that is to say the written and partly secret agreement signed in London between the two powers on 8 April 1904.

The agreement was a change for both countries. France had been isolated from the other European powers, mostly as a result of the efforts of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck to estrange France from potential allies, as it was thought that France might possibly seek revenge for its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Britain had maintained a policy of "splendid isolation" on the European continent for nearly a century, intervening in continental affairs only when it was considered necessary to protect British interests and to maintain the continental balance of power. The situation for both countries changed in the last decade of the 19th century.[5]

The change had its roots in a British loss of confidence after the Second Boer War, and a growing fear that the country was isolated in the face of a potentially aggressive Germany. As early as March 1881, the French statesman Léon Gambetta and the then-Prince of Wales, Albert Edward, met at the Château de Breteuil to discuss an alliance against Germany. The Scramble for Africa prevented the countries from coming to terms, however. On the initiative of Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, there were three rounds of British-German talks between 1898 and 1901. Britain decided not to join the Triple Alliance, broke off the negotiations with Berlin, and revived the idea of a British-French alliance.[6]

The British and French colonial empires reached their peaks after World War I, a reflection of the power of this new alliance.

When the Russo-Japanese War was about to erupt, France and Britain found themselves on the verge of being dragged into the conflict on the side of their respective allies. France was firmly allied with Russia, while Britain had recently signed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. In order to avoid going to war, both powers "shucked off their ancient rivalry"[7] and resolved their differences in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. Toward this end, French foreign minister Théophile Delcassé, and Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary, negotiated an agreement on colonial matters, and Lord Lansdowne and Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador to Britain, signed the resulting convention on 8 April 1904.[8]

However, it is unclear what exactly the Entente meant to the British Foreign Office. For example, in early 1911 following French press reports contrasting the virility of the Triple Alliance with the moribund state of the Entente Eyre Crowe minuted: "The fundamental fact of course is that the Entente is not an alliance. For purposes of ultimate emergencies it may be found to have no substance at all. For the Entente is nothing more than a frame of mind, a view of general policy which is shared by the governments of two countries, but which may be, or become, so vague as to lose all content."[9] The Triple Alliance collapsed when Italy remained neutral at the outbreak of World War I, while the Entente endured.

The documents signed[edit]

French and British scouts shaking hands with their respective national flags. 1912

The Entente was composed of three documents:


The hundredth anniversary of the Entente cordiale in 2004 was marked by a number of official and unofficial events, including a state visit to France in April by Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, and a return visit by President Chirac in November. British troops (the band of the Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, Grenadier Guards and King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery) also led the Bastille Day parade in Paris for the first time, with the Red Arrows flying overhead.

At both London Waterloo International and Paris Gare du Nord, the flags of the United Kingdom and of France were depicted connected with the words 'Entente cordiale' superimposed on posters. Some French political leaders had complained[10] about the name "Waterloo" for the destination of trains from Paris because the British terminus is named after the 1815 battle where a British-led alliance defeated Napoleon's army, and in 1998 French politician Florent Longuepée wrote to British Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding, without success, that the name be changed.[10][11] In November 2007 St Pancras International became the new London terminus for the Eurostar service.

During his March 2008 summit with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for a stronger entente amicale ("friendly understanding") between the two nations in a speech before the House of Commons.[12] Brown, in turn, called for an entente formidable ("formidable understanding"), emphasizing military cooperation between the United Kingdom and France and possibly indicating an interest in European military integration and strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union.[13]

The 'entente cordiale' remains a significant factor in both countries' diplomacy in the 21st century, manifesting itself in the 'Defence and Security Co-operation Treaty' signed by President Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron on 2 November 2010. This treaty formed a joint Anglo-French military capability and recognised the shared strategic interests of the two nations as well as the fiscal reality that neither of the former great powers could maintain a globally significant military alone.[citation needed]

Entente frugale is a wry reference term for cooperation between the British and French governments, announced in November 2010. It relates to a military procurement, which is driven by cost constraints.

Entente Cordiale scholarships[edit]

The name "Entente Cordiale" is used for the Entente Cordiale Scholarship scheme, a selective Franco-British scholarship scheme which was announced on 30 October 1995 by British Prime Minister John Major and French President Jacques Chirac at an Anglo-French summit in London.[14] It provides funding for British and French students to study for one academic year on the other side of the Channel. The scheme is administered by the French embassy in London for British students,[15] and by the British Council France and the UK embassy in Paris for French students.[16][17] Funding is provided by the private sector and foundations. The scheme aims to foster mutual understanding and to promote exchanges between the British and French leaders of tomorrow. The programme was initiated by Sir Christopher Mallaby, British ambassador to France between 1993 and 1996.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Margaret Macmillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (2013) ch 6
  2. ^ A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 (1954) pp 408-17
  3. ^ Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 (1954) pp 417
  4. ^ Quoted in Chamberlain, M. E., "Pax Britannica? British Foreign Policy 1789-1914" p.88 ISBN 0-582-49442-7
  5. ^ Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 (1954) ch 15-16
  6. ^ Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 (1954) ch 17
  7. ^ "Entente Cordiale (European history) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  8. ^ C. J. Lowe and M. L. Dockrill, The Mirage of Power; Vol. 1, British Foreign Policy 1902-14 (1972) pp 1-28
  9. ^ Quoted in Coleraine K. A. Hamilton, "Great Britain and France, 1911–1914" p.324 in Hinsley, Francis Harry (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge University Press, 1977) ISBN 0-521-21347-9, ISBN 978-0-521-21347-9
  10. ^ a b "Waterloo insult to French visitors". BBC. 6 November 1998. Retrieved 21 June 2007. 
  11. ^ Webster, Ben (12 March 2004). "Passengers ready for a second battle of Waterloo". London: The Times. Retrieved 10 April 2008. 
  12. ^ Reynolds, Paul (27 March 2008). "Sarkozy woos the British". BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "Brown seeks 'Entente Formidable'". BBC. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  14. ^ Franco-British Council (2001). Crossing the Channel. ISBN 0 9540118 2 1. 
  15. ^ http://www.ambafrance-uk.org/spip.php?page=mobile_art&art=13690 Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the French Embassy in the UK
  16. ^ http://www.britishcouncil.fr/en/studyuk/entente-cordiale-apply Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the British Council France
  17. ^ http://ukinfrance.fco.gov.uk/en/about-us/working-with-france/entente-cordiale/ Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the UK embassy in France
  18. ^ Wilson, Iain (2010). Are International Exchange and Mobility Programmes Effective Tools of Symmetric Public Diplomacy?. Aberyswyth University. p. 52. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]