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Last Updated: Monday, 5 April, 2004, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Entente Cordiale - qu'est-ce que c'est?
Who put the 'e' in Concorde?
The French President Jacques Chirac is in England to mark the end of centenary celebrations for the Entente Cordiale - but what was it?

In 1903, without seeking either the approval or advice of his prime minister or foreign secretary, "uncle of Europe" Edward VII arrived in Paris, charmed the initially hostile crowds - their cries of "vive Jeanne d'Arc" were replaced by "vive notre roi" - and began negotiations for what became the Entente Cordiale.

On 8 April, 1904, the "friendly understanding" was signed in London by the French ambassador, Paul Cambon, and the British Foreign Secretary, Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, the fifth Marquis of Lansdowne.

France and Britain had been fighting off and on for hundreds of years, and were in competition for colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, with long-standing disputes in Morocco, Egypt, Siam, Madagascar, the New Hebrides, west and central Africa and Newfoundland.

But they were united in their suspicions of German plans to dominate Europe.

Loose cannon

And within two years Edward's hated nephew, young Kaiser Wilhelm II, threatened by this alliance, challenged France over Morocco in an attempt to drive a wedge between the allies.

The Kaiser hoped the threat of conflict would encourage the British to abandon the Entente.

But it made the UK and France realise that he was a "loose cannon" who could plunge Europe into war with his dangerous diplomatic games.

Under the terms of the Entente Cordiale, the French looked to Britain to come to their aid should the Germans go to war, and the two countries began military discussions that continued until World War I.

In 1908, the Entente was celebrated in west London's Shepherd's Bush with an exhibition named the White City after its centrepiece - a collection of white oriental palaces over a lake setting.

Sixty years and two world wars later, when Britain eventually agreed to add an "e" to its spelling of the supersonic Anglo-French airliner Concord to bring it into line with the French name, UK technology minister Tony Benn said it stood for "excellence, England, Europe and entente".


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