During Easter holidays in Normandy, I reflected about a previous Opinion OpEd, titled ‘UK and Europe: For better, not for worse’, drafted in the same region last year, together with my British wife.
Eu in this post does not stand for EU, the European Union, but for a medieval French town, on the Channel coast between Normandy and Picardy. Eu does have some relevance to its namesake’s EU integration though, given its role for French-British relations.
First, it witnessed the wedding of Guillaume before he became ‘William the Conqueror’, with the grand-daughter of a French King, a Flemish princess called… Mathilde! Apart from the ‘Belgian’ twist of that story, this showed that Normans – the former Viking invaders – were deeply rooted in the continent’s royalties.
Secondly, in 1843 and again in 1845, the young Queen Victoria visited the Eu summer residence of the old Roi-citoyen Louis-Philippe. They did not quite sign an ‘Eu Treaty’ – that would sound too good to be true – but declared the famous ‘entente cordiale’. This somewhat limited colonial fights throughout the Century, and later led to alliances during both world wars. In 1843, Queen Victoria was on the way back from meeting Wilhelm I (another Guillaume…) in Prussia. British diplomacy wanted, like usual, to balance relations, which was also known then as ‘divide and rule’. After two more French revolutions, she later met the French Emperor Napoleon III, different from his uncle Napoleon I: anglophile, as a former exile in London.
Now a more personal anecdote about my Eu visit today. We visited the Eu Jesuit chapel hosting a few history tombs, and otherwise beautifully empty. On the floor tiles, an ‘Eu community of artists’ (!) had made great chalk drawings in various styles. The symbols and faces all made up a labyrinth, which I managed to step in but not to escape without crossing lines. Impossible to leave the Eu labyrinth!
Why do I write all this? Not just for a pun on an Eu / EU Summit. But because history teaches about long lasting relations and commitments between countries, whoever the politicians are. Britain and France are among Europe’s oldest States (the notions of country and of nations are wider), with a few others like Denmark etc. They then formed part of the core of Europe. Today, they are still indispensable members of Eu. Sorry: of the EU.