Your Majesty’s extremely warm words of welcome go straight to my heart. I thank You Ma’am, as I thank You for Your invitation to pay a State visit to the United Kingdom, and especially here, to Your home, this magnificent Windsor Castle. For us all, it’s like a dream to stay at Windsor Castle. We shall be able to say that we were there. My delegation, my wife and I would like to express our sincere gratitude to Your Majesty for all the kind consideration being shown to us on our stay.
I see in this, Ma’am, the demonstration of the unrivalled friendship which, for so many centuries, has united our peoples. A fraternal friendship, Ma’am, that of two brothers who have grown up together, admittedly sometimes, perhaps even often, arguing and scrapping, but always showing regard and respect for each other. And when Yorkshiremen and Lancastrians, and the Scots, Welsh and Irish managed to unite, it was usually to fight us, and to our cost! We did a lot for Britain’s unity.
Thus over the centuries were forged the strongest ties, at times perhaps tinged with suspicion, but always marked by a great deal of affection and – I want to say this to our British friends, again on behalf of the French – of admiration for the way you love your country and defend your homeland. And it’s certainly our fraternal rivalry that has nurtured the rise of our two peoples, ensured their international influence and shaped the world. For glory, for power or just for adventure. There have always been French and British to feel passionately about the planet’s fate. And for centuries it was decided by our two armies in every corner of the world.
The primary goal of the 1904 Entente Cordiale, inspired by Your great grandfather Edward VII, was to reconcile our differences and share out our areas of influence. But throughout the twentieth century it was no longer the Entente Cordiale, it was the brotherhood of arms. The Entente Cordiale was the past. Already in the twentieth century, we were brothers in arms. Faced with the dangers, what brought us closer was the fierce determination to defend together what we had become: two great democracies, two lands of freedom, two lands of justice and two lands of solidarity. And it is no coincidence, Ma’am, that opposite the Elysée Palace, between the statues of Clemenceau and de Gaulle, stands the statue of Churchill, which you yourself, Ma’am, unveiled. The French will never, ever, forget what they owe their British brothers in arms. As I said this afternoon before Parliament, I want to say before You, Ma’am, You who enjoy Your people’s respect and affection, rest assured, Ma’am, that the people of France love the British people. And rest assured, Ma’am, that the people of France feel great respect for You. The French know what You have done for Your country. The French know Your courage and admire the way You lead Your life, Ma’am.
Our differences still exist, of course. Churchill interpreted them in his own extremely personal way when he said, and I quote roughly from memory: “the Almighty, in his infinite wisdom, did not see fit to create Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen". Had he not been a great Briton, I would not have been so bold as to quote him. But You Yourself in 2004, Ma’am, said, I believe, “Vive la différence"! which struck a great chord with the French people. But if we want them to, Prime Minister, these differences allow us to complement each other.
So this, Ma’am is the message I have come to bring the British people. Without one another, our two countries can no longer aspire to impact decisively on the world’s destiny. Together, they can recover the influence they held for so long. And in the first place in Europe, I say this because it’s what I think: Europe needs the United Kingdom, and perhaps the United Kingdom like France feels the need for Europe.
Moreover, together we are going to transform the international institutions.
So Ma’am, nearly two centuries after our troops last fought each other, after over a century of an “Entente Cordiale” and a true alliance, sealed in blood, for the defence of our freedoms and our ideals, it seems to me that, respecting our differences, the time has come for a new Franco-British brotherhood to build our common future.