Paul Chambon Will Not Speak English

"His Excellency The French Ambassador".

“His Excellency The French Ambassador”.

Underpinning Cambon’s exalted sense of self was the belief—shared by many of the senior ambassadors—that one did not merely represent France, one personified it. Though he was ambassador in London from 1898 until 1920, Cambon spoke not a word of English. During his meetings with Edward Grey (who spoke no French), he insisted that every utterance be translated into French, including easily recognized words such as “yes”. He firmly believed—like many members of the French elite—that French was the only language capable of articulating rational thought and he objected to the foundation of French schools in Britain on the eccentric grounds that French people raised in Britain tended to end up mentally retarded.

From The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark

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