Through the years, whether in the hallowed cemeteries of Northern France, or on the beaches of Normandy; or through witnessing our contemporary co-operation in the fields of business, the arts, academia and more – I have frequently been struck by how much our relationship means to us both, and how it makes us more prosperous and more secure. Above all, like so many British people, my wife and I have long had the greatest possible fondness for France and her people.

Monsieur le Président,

(Mr. President,)

Je vous remercie chaleureusement de vos paroles si bienveillantes, et d’avoir généreusement remis à Londres cette si haute distinction. C’est avec une immense fierté et un grand plaisir que j’accepte de recevoir la Légion d’Honneur au nom de la Ville de Londres, au nom du Royaume-Uni et au nom de tous ceux qui se sont battus pour la liberté aux cotés de la France. 

(I can only offer you my profound thanks for your most gracious words, and for so generously bestowing upon London this honour of such distinction. It gives me the utmost pleasure and pride to accept the Légion d’honneur on behalf of this city and this country, and on behalf of all those who struggled for liberty in common cause with France.)

Votre présence ici aujourd’hui, Monsieur le Président, est un témoignage fort du lien qui unit nos deux pays, nos peuples et de notre détermination commune que cette relation continue.

(Your presence here today, Mr. President, is a powerful demonstration of the bond between our two countries, and between our people, and of our shared determination that it must endure.)

It is a bond forged through common experience, sanctified through shared sacrifice and burnished by the deep affection in which we hold each other. Time and again our countries have stood together against tyranny and oppression, joining arms to defend the values we hold most dear. 

Throughout my life, and on my thirty-four official visits to France, I have sought to lend my support to the relationship between our two countries and to champion the myriad ties that bind us together. Through the years, whether in the hallowed cemeteries of Northern France, or on the beaches of Normandy; or through witnessing our contemporary co-operation in the fields of business, the arts, academia and more – I have frequently been struck by how much our relationship means to us both, and how it makes us more prosperous and more secure. Above all, like so many British people, my wife and I have long had the greatest possible fondness for France and her people.

Monsieur le Président,

(Mr. President,) 

L’appel du dix huit juin prononcé par le Général de Gaulle incarne l’esprit de la Résistance  française. Mais il fait aussi écho à la détermination des Londoniens et de tous les citoyens britanniques qui refusèrent d’abandonner le combat pour la liberté. C’est une détermination que mes grands-parents, le Roi George VI et la Reine Elizabeth ont partagé, en refusant de quitter Londres durant le Blitz pour rester aux côtés du peuple de Londres pendant ses jours les plus sombres.

(General de Gaulle’s Appel of 1940 came to embody the spirit of the French Resistance. But it also mirrored the determination of Londoners, and of people across this land, who refused to abandon the struggle for freedom. It was a determination that my grandparents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, themselves shared, refusing to leave London during the Blitz and standing with the people of London through the darkest of days.)

Je suis donc particulièrement fier que cette statue du Général de Gaulle se tienne non seulement ici dans notre capitale, mais qu’elle se trouve à quelques pas de celles de mes grands-parents bien-aimés, qui admirèrent tant son courage. 

(It is a matter of particular pride for me, therefore, that not only should this statue of General de Gaulle stand here in our Capital; but that it should stand a few short steps from those of my beloved grandparents who so admired his fortitude.)

On the 24th August 1940, just two months after General de Gaulle’s historic broadcast from London, The King, proudly wearing the crimson ribbon of the Légion d’honneur, travelled to meet him at Morval Camp, near Aldershot. Together they inspected 2,500 of the Free French Troops with whom, his diary shows, the King was greatly impressed.

My grandfather and General de Gaulle would remain in contact throughout the War. The telegram that the King sent him in August 1944 when Paris was finally liberated, suggests how closely the fates of their countries, and their people, had become intertwined.

As my grandfather wrote, “It is with deep emotion that I have received the news that the citizens of Paris have expelled the invader from their city and joined hands with the armies of liberation which are pursuing the enemy beyond its boundaries. I rejoice with Your Excellency and with the whole people of France at this hour of their triumph, as I sorrowed with them through their long years of suffering.”

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The liberation, and the peace that followed, were dividends of General de Gaulle’s fortitude. To this day, his resolute determination offers an example upon which both our countries can draw as we work together to face new threats and challenges:

  • as we address issues of global security, humanitarian need, or human rights;
  • as we seek bold and decisive action against the destructive forces of climate change;
  • as we tackle public health crises like this current pandemic which has confronted us all in such a stark and alarming manner;
  • and as we strive to rebuild our economies in a way that is truly sustainable, and secures the critically endangered future of this singular planet which we share.

Et dans tous nos efforts, gardons en tête les mots du Général de Gaulle en juin mille neuf cent quarante: « L’espérance doit-elle disparaître ?... Non ! »

(In all of this, and in all our shared endeavours, we should take heart from the words of General de Gaulle’s June 1940 broadcast: “L'espérance doit-elle disparaître?  ... Non!”)

Aujourd’hui, Monsieur le Président, réitérons notre engagement à travailler ensemble pour défendre ce qui nous est le plus cher, et pour atteindre nos objectifs communs. Renouvelons le lien qui nous unit – en tant que voisins, alliés, partenaires et amis. Et tournons-nous vers l’avenir, non seulement avec espoir, mais avec la certitude que, comme tant de fois par le passé, nous marcherons ensemble. 

(Today, Mr. President, let us recommit ourselves to working together in defence of all that we value, and in pursuit of all to which we jointly aspire. Let us renew the bond between us – as neighbours, allies, partners and friends. And let us approach the future not only with hope, but with the certainty that, as so often before, we do so together.)