November 5

Britain abandons France

On the 5th of November 1800, it was settled by the privy-council, that in consequence of the Irish Union, the royal style and title should be changed on the 1st of January following—namely, from “George III, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith;” to “George III, by the grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith.” And thus the title of king of France, which had been borne by the monarchs of England for four hundred and thirty-two years—since the forty-third year of the reign of Edward III —was ultimately abandoned.

It was the Salic law [forbidding a female to inherit or pass on a claim to the French throne] which had excluded Edward from the inheritance of France; but Queen Elizabeth I claimed the title, nevertheless, asserting that if she could not be queen, she would be king of France. During the war between England and Spain, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, commissioners were appointed on both sides to discuss peace. The Spanish commissioners proposed that the negotiations should be carried on in the French tongue, observing sarcastically, that “the gentlemen of England could not be ignorant of the language of their fellow-subjects, their queen being queen of France as well as of England.” “Nay, in faith, gentlemen,” drily replied Dr. Dale, one of the English commissioners, “French is too vulgar for a business of this importance; we will therefore, if you please, rather treat in Hebrew, the language of Jerusalem, of which your master [Philip II] calls himself king, and in which you must, of course, be as well skilled as we are in French.”

Despite the abandonment of the claim to France the motto of the British monarch outside of Scotland (where the motto is different) is in French – “Dieu et mon droit” – as is the motto of the Order of the Garter – “Honi soit qui mal y pense”.

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