Introduction The Contending Kingdoms: France and England 1420–1700
The 2003 Richard Dimbleby Lecture was delivered by Dominique de Villepin, then the French Foreign Minister. He observed that in the century since the signing of the Entente-Cordiale in 1904, the peoples of Britain and France ‘have built a unique relationship, made up of a mixture of irritation and fascination’.1 His words apply equally well to long periods before 1904, and to none better than the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Rather than being unremittingly hostile, as they are often popularly assumed to be, early-modern Anglo-French relations are perhaps better described as ambivalent in the true sense of the word. That is, they had both positive and negative strengths at different times and circumstances. From diplomacy and warfare, to trade, exploration and technological development and in the fields of literature, the fine arts, fashion and cuisine, each side did indeed find the other both endlessly irritating and fascinating.