Throughout the eight centuries which have elapsed since, during the reign of King John, that metaphorical gathering up took place, the Englishness of the islands might have intensified, but our French heritage and links with our nearest neighbours are still of great significance.
Road and street names, people’s names, procedures in the States and the foundations of our legal system all testify to the lasting influence that the French language and French culture have had on this Island.
It is fitting, therefore, that we should be the hosts this week of the regional conference of L’Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie, an event which has attracted delegations from many other parts of Europe where French is an important language.
Surprisingly, the countries represented include not only obvious participants such as France itself and Belgium, but also Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Macedonia and Romania, all of whose delegates are most welcome and are doubtless being treated as honoured guests.
Some might say that the regional conference, which involves five days of events and discussion, is of little more than symbolic importance. That, however, would be to underestimate the value of sharing ideas and opinions on the heavyweight subjects on the agenda. These include the impact of ageing populations on the wide range of communities represented and the measures that are being proposed to deal with this problem.
At a less immediately practical but nevertheless significant level, the continuing connection with other places where French is a feature of culture and heritage helps to reinforce the Island’s understanding of how its unique identity has developed since its status as a Crown possession was established.
This might appear to be of only academic interest, but we would do well to remember that our combination of French and English influences is a key element in the complex of factors that makes this such a special place.
If, meanwhile, we are pressed to identify real contributions that our Frenchness makes in economic terms, we should not forget that our quasi-continental character is still a powerful selling point when it comes to attracting visitors to our shores.