Military Wiki
Entente cordiale
Entente Cordiale dancing.jpg
A 1904 French postcard showing Marianne and Britannia dancing together, symbolizing the newborn cooperation between the two countries.
Signed 14 August 1904
Signatories  French Third Republic
 United Kingdom
Languages French, English

The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements signed on 8 April 1904 between the United Kingdom and the Third French Republic. Beyond the immediate concerns of colonial expansion addressed by the agreement, the signing of the Entente Cordiale marked the end of almost a millennium of intermittent conflict between the two nations and their predecessor states, and the formalisation of the peaceful co-existence that had existed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The Entente Cordiale, along with the Anglo-Russian Entente and the Franco-Russian Alliance, later became part of the Triple Entente among the UK, France, and Russia.

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 shores of Newfoundland and in return received an indemnity and territory in The Gambia (Senegal) and Nigeria. Britain dropped complaints regarding the French customs régime in Madagascar. The respective spheres of influence were defined in Siam (Thailand).


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 United Kingdom and France. This was translated into French as Entente Cordiale and used by Louis Philippe I in the French Chamber that year.[1] 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 April 8, 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. The United Kingdom 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.

The change had its roots in a British loss of confidence after the humiliations experienced during their prolonged struggle in 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. King Edward VII declined to accede to the Triple Alliance, broke off the negotiations with Berlin,[citation needed] and revived the idea of a British-French alliance.

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"[2] 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. However, it is far from clear 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."[3] Ironically, the Triple Alliance would collapse with the cession of Italy at the outbreak of World War I, while the Entente would endure.

The documents signed

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

The Entente was composed of three documents:

  • The first and most important document was the Declaration respecting Egypt and Morocco. In return for the French promising not to "obstruct" British actions in Egypt, the British promised to allow the French to "preserve order … and provide assistance" in Morocco. Free passage through the Suez Canal was guaranteed, finally putting the Convention of Constantinople into force, and the erection of fortifications on part of the Moroccan coast forbidden. The treaty contained a secret annex dealing with the possibility of "changed circumstances" in the administration of either of the two countries.
  • The second document dealt with Newfoundland and portions of West and Central Africa. The French gave up their rights (stemming from the Treaty of Utrecht) over the western coast of Newfoundland, although they retained the right to fish the coast. In return, the British gave the French the town of Yarbutenda (near the modern border between Senegal and The Gambia) and the Iles de Los (part of modern Guinea). An additional provision deals with the border between French and British possessions east of the River Niger (present-day Niger and Nigeria).
  • The final declaration concerned Siam (Thailand), Madagascar and the New Hebrides (Vanuatu). In Siam, the British recognised a French sphere of influence to the east of the River Menam's basin; in turn, the French recognised British influence over the territory to the west of the Menam basin. Both parties disclaimed any idea of annexing Siamese territory. The British withdrew their objection to the French introducing a tariff in Madagascar. The parties came to an agreement which would "put an end to the difficulties arising from the lack of jurisdiction over the natives of the New Hebrides".


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.

In both London Waterloo International and Paris Gare du Nord, the flags of the United Kingdom and of France are depicted connected with the words 'Entente cordiale' superimposed on posters. However a number of French political leaders had complained[4] 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. In 1998, French politician Florent Longuepée wrote to the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding, without success, that the name be changed.[4][5] As of November 2007 this has been removed as 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.

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.

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.[8] 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,[9] and by the British Council France and the UK embassy in Paris for French students.[10][11] Funding is provided by the private sector and foundations. The scheme aims to favour 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.[12]

See also


  1. Quoted in Chamberlain, M. E., "Pax Britannica? British Foreign Policy 1789-1914" p.88 ISBN 0-582-49442-7
  2. "Entente Cordiale (European history) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2010-03-08. 
  3. Quoted in Hamilton, Coleraine K. A., Lecturer in International Politics, University College of Wales, "Great Britain and France, 1911–1914" p.324 in Hinsley, Francis Harry (ed.), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977) ISBN 0-521-21347-9, ISBN 978-0-521-21347-9
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Waterloo insult to French visitors". BBC. 6 November 1998. Retrieved 21 June 2007. 
  5. Webster, Ben (12 March 2004). "Passengers ready for a second battle of Waterloo". London: The Times.,,2-1035087,00.html. Retrieved 10 April 2008. 
  6. Reynolds, Paul (27 March 2008). "Sarkozy woos the British". BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  7. "Brown seeks 'Entente Formidable'". BBC. 27 March 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2008. 
  8. Franco-British Council (2001). Crossing the Channel. ISBN 0 9540118 2 1. 
  9. Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the French Embassy in the UK
  10. Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the British Council France
  11. Entente Cordiale scholarships on the website of the UK embassy in France
  12. Wilson, Iain (2010). Are International Exchange and Mobility Programmes Effective Tools of Symmetric Public Diplomacy?. Aberyswyth University. p. 52. 

Further reading

  • P. J. V. Rolo, Entente Cordiale: the origins and negotiation of the Anglo-French agreements of 8 April 1904. Macmillan/St Martin's Press, London 1969.
  • C. Andrew, Théophile Delcassé and the making of the Entente Cordiale: A reappraisal of French Foreign Policy 1898-1905 (1968)

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).