The Entente Cordiale

As I mentioned it in the last post, I thought it would be good to do a brief examination of the England/France alliance, the Entente Cordiale.

England & France: A History

Throughout history, there had been one certainty: England and France were rivals.  This had come about because the English monarch held lands – usually via subject lords – in France.  It started in 1066, when William the Conqueror, Duke or Normandy in northern France, invaded and successfully overthrew the English throne, establishing his dominion over England.  From that point on, up to the Stuart reign, England held at least some land in France.

The Norman dynasty was succeeded by the Plantagenets, originally – again – based in France.  By the time of Richard I (the Lionheart), England held northern France, western France and substantial parts of the south.  In fact, the Plantagenet empire was so powerful that Richard I apparently held out hopes of becoming the Holy Roman Emperor!

John, Richard’s brother and successor, managed to lose most of this empire, however, and almost everything in France.  Yet, with the Tudor dynasty, England once again became the stronger of the two powers.

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars brought the England/France rivalry to its apogee.  England (Great Britain or, more properly, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland by then) was a key player in Napoleon’s defeat.

Post Napoleon, however, things began to change.  Britain was the only constitutional monarchy among the major European powers.  When France emerged as a constitutional monarchy (of sorts) with the replacement of the Bourbon with Orleans dynasty, France also became supportive of more liberal government, aligning herself with the policies of Britain.  Faced with the conservative and reactionary Holy Alliance of Prussia, the Hapsburg Empire and Russia, England and France reluctantly found themselves supporting similar causes.

Much of the nineteenth century saw this established as the new status quo.  There were blips.  Louis Napoleon’s election as the President of France and his subsequent coronation as Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, meant that Britain saw a new Napoleonic threat.  And yet England and France allied with the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in the Crimean War against an isolated Russia.

In the latter years of the nineteenth century, Britain and France formed the Entente Cordiale, an alliance aimed at curbing the pretentions of the German Empire, established under Bismarck’s chancellorship.  By the time the twentieth century came around, England and France were much closer as allies.

The E/F Alliance

In Diplomacy, the Anglo-French alliance, named after the treaty between Britain and France the Entente Cordiale, is one of the three likely dual alliances involving England, France and Germany.  These three powers are the main players in what I call the NWT, the North/West Triangle.  (This is often called the Northern Triangle or Western Triangle by Dippyists but I’ve never been able to decide which name is the best, hence my hybridisation of the terms.)

The Entente Cordiale, or simply “Entente”, is aimed primarily at Germany.  E/F can present a common front on Germany’s western and northern borders.  The idea is that it isolates Germany, who is likely to have nothing more than neutral pacts with Russia, Austria and Italy.  Of these, Austria-Hungary is likely to be the player that objects most vociferously to the Entente’s success as Germany’s defeat removes an important security blanket covering Austria’s ass.  Yet Austria-Hungary is unlikely to be able to do anything to prevent the Entente’s designs coming to fruition.

Russia may well see an advantage in jumping on-board the Entente Cordiale’s ship.  If she doesn’t she could face a powerful England in Scandinavia; if she does she can gain Sweden, perhaps Denmark, and Berlin. Once Germany is eliminated, Russia then has the options of joining France in an anti-England alliance; becoming neutral towards England, allowing the latter to focus on France; or openly joining England in an alliance to push into central Europe.

Resolving the NWT

Whichever dual alliance forms in the NWT, it will likely succeed.  Not one of the powers can stand successfully against a combination of the other two powers.  The question is always going to be what happens after the NWT is resolved?

In the case of England/France, England can move on to Scandinavia and then Russia, France can move on to the Mediterranean and Italy.  But do they?

For England, the move east is a natural move.  With a secure alliance across the Channel, her forces can focus elsewhere.  No matter how she has built units to deal with Germany, she will have fleets enough to push through the seas and coastal spaces.

For France, the move through the Mediterranean is less natural.  She will have to get there in some form eventually: a successful France will probably hold Tunis at least.  But there are closer SCs than those in the south and there are SCs that don’t necessarily need such a sizable fleet presence.  It just happens that those SCs are held by her ally.

The likelihood is that, in the Entente Cordiale, England has built more fleets and France has built more armies.  England will have fought through the seas to get to Germany; France faces Germany across the Burgundy/Munich-Ruhr border.  As part of the alliance, England has probably established that France doesn’t build fleets in Brest.

Now, England is still across the Channel; to get at English home SCs, France still needs fleets.  At this point, France will likely have at least two fleets – after all, she is expected to go through the Med seas.  In the meantime, England’s fleets should be focused east, ready to throw into Scandinavia and Russia.

For France, the temptation to strike against her ally is immense.  She will be in Munich and probably Berlin.  She may hold Belgium.  The SCs encircled by these units – Holland, Kiel and Denmark – will be held by England.  Even if England holds Belgium, it is French territory that borders the space.

If France to stab and capture two of these SCs, England is stretched and weakened.  At this point, France can build an extra fleet in Brest and England suddenly finds an aggressive, able maritime presence to her south, while her fleets are in the east.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course.  France and England would be in position to move against Russia together.  With France in Munich and Berlin, she can be in Silesia and Prussia in one move, leaving Warsaw under threat.

Alternatively, France could look south, as I’ve said, whether towards Italy or Austria.  An army moving into Tyrolia puts both powers on alert.

However, the French threat is real for England.  She can’t ignore the fact that English mainland holdings are vulnerable and that France is better placed to strike her than she is to strike France.  England has to defeat France to win; France has to defeat England: at some point the alliance will fail.  For France, why not now?

This mid-game problem is why many players don’t like the Entente Cordiale.  It doesn’t deal with the question of how England will beat France but puts England in a weaker position than the alternative, the E/G alliance: the “Anglo-Saxon“.

For France, it is probably slightly better than her alternative: the “Rhineland” alliance of France/Germany.  With the EC, France has easier access to English SCs than she has access to German SCs in the Rhineland. And, for France, a strong Germany is always a threat.



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