On September 10 1956, Guy Mollet, the then French prime minister, came to London to discuss the possibility of a merger between the two countries with his British counterpart, Sir Anthony Eden, according to declassified papers from the National Archives, uncovered by the BBC.
Not surprisingly (insert bad trade analogy here), it didn’t go very far, but the tenacious Mollet was willing to dig deeper, putting French Nationalism itself on the table (insert surrender monkey joke here):
When Mr Mollet’s request for a union failed, he quickly responded with another plan – that France be allowed to join the British commonwealth – which was said to have been met more warmly by Sir Anthony.
Apparently, the offer was actually taken seriously by the Brits:
A document dated September 28 1956 records a conversation between the prime minister and his cabinet secretary, Sir Norman Brook, saying:
“The PM told him [Brook] on the telephone that he thought, in the light of his talks with the French:
· That we should give immediate consideration to France joining the
· That Monsieur Mollet had not thought there need be difficulty over France
accepting the headship of her Majesty
· That the French would welcome a common citizenship arrangement on the
So what do les Francais vivants think of this revelation?:
“I tell you the truth – when I read that I am quite astonished,” the French Nationalist MP, Jacques Myard, told the BBC today.
“I had a good opinion of Mr Mollet before. I think I am going to revise that opinion. I am just amazed at reading this, because since the days I was learning history as a student I have never heard of this. It is not in the textbooks.”
I bet not.