No clearer cultural Anglo French divide is quite so evident than demonstrated in the womenfolk of both countries.
At the end of the second Napoleonic war Brit women descended on Paris to search for the latest fashions after years of denial, French women were agog at the sheer hopelessness of their sisters’ turn out, years of lockdown from Parisian fashion had re-embedded frumpy drab in the English women’s national psyche much to the delight & scorn of the Parisian ladies flaunting their chic on the left bank boulevards. The English don’t even have a word for chic, try Google translations French to English.
But the English were not to be outdone. The cavalry dragoon & hussar officers strutted their scarlet stuff reveling in victory at the Paris & Vienna balls attracting the now conveniently royalist French ladies comme une mite a une flamme.
Fast forward to the present day.
The average Parisian housewife on her way to the Carrefour will usually take as much trouble as if she were bound for an afternoon’s window shopping on the Rue Montaigne. Her English equivalent goes to Tesco dressed like a jobbing gardener & would probably go to Bond St. in the same rig but with expensive shoes. That’s if there were any English women left in the West End outside Harvey Nichs wine bar.
Interestingly English & French women take a diametrically opposed view of their men folk.
The French wife is there to make a home, bring up the children & support her businessman or politician husband in his career. She expects a decent car, holiday & expensive birthday present, she tolerates her husband having a discreet mistress tucked away in a fashionable Maison Laffitte apartment, it gets her a bit more sleep. She lunches at Miura with like minded cronies & settles l’addition with hubbies credit card. She knows divorce benefits nobody least of all her.
Her English sister, also a home maker & lover of her children throws an epi fit if she finds out her husband shagged a secretary at the Christmas party or rolled a stable girl in the hay for a quickie.
She is uncompromising, dignity affronted, divorce, lawyers, settlements, sod the family she is mortally offended. All this because being English she has made no effort to understand men at all. Middle aged men get the seven year itch, it’s not about sex or even disloyalty, it’s about vanity. Give it a few months and it will probably blow over, after all he probably prefers his car, dog or favourite eight iron.
The French wife understands this, indeed most married men really just want someone to stroke their ego, laugh at their jokes & not constantly interrupt their anecdotes at dinner parties.
Little of this seems to apply to contemporary English royalty. The last Prince of Wales just wanted a grandma or matron figure with sycophantic tendencies & burning ambition, which he got in spades. Edward Prince of Wales preferred the Louis XIV mistress system of rumpy pumpy & move on.
Perhaps one of the great differences between the Anglo French sisters could be that a French wife has no ambition to change (improve?) her husband, the English wife always imagines she can change her man into something more to her liking post marriage, idler, drunkard, knobhound, scoundrel, cad, pre or post marriage he is the same beast, (the worst husband is the loser, wives of all nationalities understand this, well perhaps not Italians).
Of course allowance must be made for class. British aristocracy take a different view from their middle class compatriots but discretion is key. Interclass marriage is more difficult in England, social attitudes are not always the same. I remember a daughter of a very senior Duke of old family bemoaning to me of her ill fated marriage to ‘only landed gentry’.
Poor Diana, Princess of Wales a lady of one of the noblest families in England married Charles Windsor, a provincial Saxe Coburg hopelessly out of his depth then as now, he really didn’t get it, King & loser?
Ironically it seems Macron shares a grandmother fixation, a French president with no sense of style, so what is the point of him?
Still on the English woman’s plus side she can carry four galvanized buckets of feed across the stable yard at once, clear a five bar gate side saddle on a seventeen hand horse & drink until 3am at a hunt ball after four hours in the saddle & muck out at sparrow’s fart in the morning.
Moreover she can breed sailors & generals who win battles.
Not something French women are good at, thank goodness.
No, Napoleon Buonaparte was Corsican.
© John Bull 2023