Category Archives: Opinion

The Upstairs Downstairs Story of the French Cook’s Daughter

Frogsiders Scoop! The Queen Mother was half-French!

Well, OK. It’s not really a scoop – the English papers have all got the story, but it is just possible you may not have heard about it yet if you live in France.

The new biography of a French cook's ambitious daughter

According to a new biography by Lady Colin Campbell, the Queen Mother was the daughter of her aristocratic family’s French cook.

The author alleges that cook, Marguerite Rodiere, gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth in an arrangement described as “an early version of surrogacy”.

She claims this practice was not unusual among the upper classes at that time and came about because the hitherto presumed mother, the countess, who already had eight children, was unable to have any more.

It is claimed that the nickname “Cookie”, given to the Queen Mother by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, was a reference to the real mother, and, according to Lady Campbell, it also explains why the Queen Mother, born the Honourable Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes Lyon, was given a French middle name.

The new book, “The Untold Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother“, reveals,

“Royal and aristocratic circles had been alight for decades with the story that Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, while undoubtedly the daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was not the child of his wife Cecilia, nor was her younger brother David, born nearly two years after her on 2nd May, 1902.

“The two Benjamins, as they were known in the Bowes Lyon family (in a Biblical allusion to the brother of Joseph, who was himself the product of a coupling between his father and his mother’s maid) were supposedly the children of Marguerite Rodiere, an attractive and pleasant Frenchwoman who had been the cook at St Paul’s Waldenbury and is meant to have provided Lord and Lady Glamis with the two children they so yearned for after Cecilia was forbidden by her doctors from producing any more progeny.

“Hence the nickname of Cookie, which the Duke and Duchess of Windsor took care to promulgate throughout international society once Elizabeth proved herself to be their most formidable enemy.

The reference to the two youngest children being known as “Benjamins” is even more intriguing in view of the common use of the word in French for young children.

If only we had known this before.  The British people could have benefited from Buckingham Palace being opened as a restaurant, where the Queen would show off her inherited French culinary expertise, perhaps even earning a Michelin star.  Prince Philip, of course might have made a halfway decent wine waiter.  Unfortunately we learn the truth too late.  She’s now far too old to run the kitchen now, and her children, with the exception perhaps of Anne, who seems to have inherited some of her French great-grandmother’s humility, common sense and savoir-faire,  are good for nothing whatever.

Or perhaps they could be trained to do the washing-up?

  • The Euro Storm ~ Is France the safest haven?

    "Ha! Cameron kaput ist!. Kaffee und Hörnchen für 23, schnell! ... A vos ordres, Chef"

    I have long thought that the EU was designed primarily for the benefit of France and the French. Every time treaty changes are made France seems to gain or, at the very least, not lose. France is the only major economy in the EU that makes no net contribution to the EU. Moreover, France’s financial position would be even more advantageous if it no longer had to contribute several billion euros towards the British rebate, negotiated (or handbagged out of Brussels) by Mrs Thatcher.

    Under the circumstances it would be surprising if the isolation of Britain from the centre of EU politics, and possibly its eventual exit from the EU, were not a major diplomatic objective for French EU officials.

    Here is what Benedict Brogan of the Daily Telegraph has to say about the veto exercised by Mr Cameron in Brussels last night.

    “Mr Cameron was right to reject a deal designed by the French, for the French. At the heart of this dispute is France’s desire to see Britain out of the EU, and the City marginalised.That was why they loaded the package with elements Britain could not accept. Downing Street officials are clear about what the French are up to, and why the Prime Minister had no choice but to say non.”

    If it has been abundantly clear to someone like me, for many years, that France  created and has moulded the EU to its own benefit, not just financial advantage, but also for greater global influence and consequent worldwide trade advantages, then why has it not been obvious to British politicians and media commentators?

    It seems they may be, at last, waking up to smell the croissant.

    Those of us who live in France can comfort ourselves, amidst all the storm of global recession, the whirlpools of rising energy costs, the icebergs of banking crises and, above all, the threat of a Euro currency shipwreck, that whatever decisions and sacrifices are made in Brussels, France will emerge with the best lifejacket.

    And we might be needing it, for, as Terry Smith of interdealer broker Tullett Prebon, said on BBC Radio 4,

    “The UK is as isolated as somebody who refused to join the Titanic just before it sailed.”

    At last! The Beginning of the End of the Global Warming Scare

    If you have been worried by the constant stream of prediction, over the last 20 years,  of imminent catastrophic man-made climate change, and the dire consequences thereof, you can finally rest easy.

    report published by the IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) last week  finally admits that scientists can’t say with any reasonable degree of confidence whether the climate will be warming or cooling in the next 20-30 years.

    In addition, because the “man-made signal” is negligible relatively to the climate’s natural variability there can be only low or medium confidence in computer model predictions of any rate of change in the frequency of  extreme weather events.

    Similarly there can not be a high degree of confidence in conclusions that the tiny proportion of atmospheric CO2 gas which can be described as “man-made” is capable of causing any observable climate change.

    This report must surely mark the beginning of the end of the most expensive confidence trick in history.  Politicians, and the BBC of course, will not suddenly abandon all pretense of belief in the scam, since to do so would make them look foolish, and, anyway, many of them are still making plenty of money from it.

    Eventually, however, the whole thing will be forgotten and swept away to become a sort of cautionary tale, like the story of the South Sea Bubble.  No doubt some leading British politicians are already planning strategies that will enable them, in the future, to claim to have saved the country from the scam, much as Sir Robert Walpole did back then – not before he had made his own fortune out of it, naturally.

    Ex-Pats Beware of Bogus House Buyers

    What value the internet? On reflection I find that those who either left it too late or just can’t be bothered to learn to use a computer, frequently criticise. Those of us who have been surfing for years, well we just can’t imagine life without it. The former group often try to strengthen their case by sighting paedophile groomers, bank account hackers and of course scammers and it’s those very scammers that have brought me to examine my own opinion.

    We were recently targeted by someone who purported to be interested in buying our house which we recently placed with three local estate agents, plus a couple of ads on small independent internet sites. Actually we’re not in a hurry to sell, it’s a big house and we figured that it would take several years to shift so we were quite surprised when almost immediately; we received a phone call from a man asking for more details and some photos. He said that he would text his email address and when it didn’t arrive we were not concerned and forgot the whole thing. After about a fortnight he rang again and this time the email address came through very quickly – of course we responded to his request.

    His story was that he lived and worked in Scotland (he spoke good French and English) and was interested in a house in our area. He was very busy so he would send his “expert” to look over the house – all feasible so far. However alarm bells began to ring when we were asked if we would accept part of the payment in Sterling, why we asked ourselves but didn’t really think too much about it as we have been very busy with other projects.

    After several phone calls from the potential buyer we were contacted by the so-called expert who told us he would be arriving at our local station on the Paris train and could we pick him up. My husband did so and I must say that we were both surprised not only because there were two of them but their appearance was, not to put too fine a point on it, Middle Eastern in cheap clothes.

    To cut a long story short they had a look round and seemed to us a bit too enthusiastic with the “buyer” ringing several times during the visit seeming impatient to do a deal. They were polite, pleasant and very complimentary even telling us that our house was worth more than we were asking. Now, having sold numerous properties in our time we of course thought this to be suspicious and started to think about scams. We wondered though how they could possibly dupe us as we thought it was simple, if they didn’t give us the money we wouldn’t give them the house. What could be their angle?

    The following day the “buyer” rang saying he was meeting the experts in Paris the day after and would contact us further to make “a rendezvous”. This he did but the meeting was to be at Fouquets in Paris – things were now becoming ridiculous.

    So we searched the internet and indeed we did find many such scams with a very similar chain of events. The one we were experiencing was potentially to be paid a part sum into our UK bank account and when it appeared on our on-line statement we would be asked to refund the buyer’s expenses (usually 10%) and then, voila, the original payment bounces.

    My husband rang the scammer to say that we would be happy to meet him but we insist that it be at our lawyer’s office. You can imagine the reaction; of course the whole deal was off.

    This scam would not work through an estate agent it is only doable through a private sale in this case via the internet. The process necessitates a transaction crossing two countries and currencies plus it is compounded by the use of internet banking.  Now all those technophobes are smiling smugly – but my point is that these scams are very soon “out there” on that very same internet warning us of dangerous pitfalls. Scammers used to be con-men and confidence tricksters the internet did not invent them.

    With all new things there can be drawbacks but in general, progress is good and I for one will not stop using the internet. I have to confess in fact that both my husband and I are completely addicted, tapping happily on our iPods each evening at the same time as watching television. Who said that men can’t multi-task?

    A cunning plan. How not to be disappointed at Christmas

    Just what I wanted! How did you guess?

    This year I let it be known I wanted socks for Christmas.

    A tremendously cunning plan, because, judging by the shape and weight of the parcels, I think I’ll be getting what I asked for – except for the bottle-shaped gift-wrapped parcel which probably isn’t socks.

    And even that is unlikely to be disappointing.

    So here’s my suggestion if you’re disappointed in the presents you receive this Christmas.  Next year, if you’re a male, drop early hints that you need socks.

    I admit this plan might not work so well for females, but you women could always try hinting that you would like a new saucepan or an electric tin-opener.  Since no man will ever want to admit defeat and buy you what you seem to want, you’ll probably get something – shall we say – unexpected!

    The Ugliest Building In France?

    On the way back from Paris the other day I caught sight of the building I would nominate as the ugliest in France. I am talking about the Tour Perret in Amiens, which ruins a skyline that should be dominated by the city’s great gothic cathedral.

    This monstrous tower’s brutal architecture and contextual inappropriateness is unequalled in France, or even the world. In an old city of low rise buildings, where the superb medieval cathedral can be seen for miles around, it looks as if giant trogolodyte aliens forced their way up from the earth’s core, abandoning their drill bit once it reached the open air.

    Apparently the architect, Auguste Perret, was highly thought of in the first half of the 20th century. He once proposed a ring of dozens of similarly awful towers, spaced every few hundred yards around what is now the Paris peripherique.

    The people of Paris had a narrow escape. Unfortunately Amiens was the loser.

    If you think you know of an uglier building in France – name and shame it!

  • Anglo-French Military co-operation? Bien sûr mon ami!

    This week’s news that French and British forces will be co-operating more closely in future, in order to meet tight budgetary restrictions, has caused a certain amount of indignant comment on the British side of the Channel. On this side, the French reaction has been more of a gallic shrug.

    Cameron demonstrates the new low-cost Anglo-French "stealth" pistol

    The French probably see themselves as having more to gain in this agreement, since, for example, it’s well-known over here in France that the solitary aircraft carrier in the French Navy, the nuclear Charles De Gaulle, on which the Royal Navy will be allowed occasionally to land its planes, is a totally useless piece of junk which has spent most of its time in dry-dock. As long as the Royal Navy don’t actually expect the CDG to put to sea, there’ll be no problem fulfilling the French side of the bargain.  In mitigation the French may point out that a carrier in dry-dock is at least as useful as a submarine aground.

    A foreseeable problem on joint-operations is the language barrier, but here again the French might be expecting to come out on top. French should certainly be the default language used, they will claim, because the British forces already use so many French words that learning the rest of the French language should present no problems.

    A fusilier, grenadier or bombardier, for instance would be called the same in both armies, as would, sergeant, lieutenant, major, colonel and general. The navy could keep its frigates as long as they learned to pronounce the word frégate. Corvettes could make a comeback, too.

    The RAF would be permitted the occasional reconnaissance flight, and, in places like Afghanistan, sorties will be necessary, provided they are fully costed and within budget. The British government will be keen to avoid any wasteful use of matériel.

    The Royal Marines would not have to change their nomenclature, but they would have to become proper sailors instead of a land fighting force.

    Britain can, of course keep its grenades and officers can continue to wear epaulettes on their dress uniforms.

    Officers in the top echelons will still need an aide-de-camp to assist in the management and deployment of the corps.

    In time the armed forces of the UK will probably learn from the French the traditional martial art of hors de combat, or keeping your head down.

    Roma expulsions – a reply to Castro, the senile arch-hypocrite

    France is under fire from many sides for its policy of repatriating Roma “travellers”.  Now the latest shot is fired by Fidel Castro, the former Cuban leader, who has accused France of carrying out a “racial holocaust” over the expulsions.

    “The last thing one would expect is the news of the expulsion of French gypsies, who are victims of the cruelty of the extreme rightwing in France,” Castro said at an event to promote the second volume of his autobiography.

    Some 7,000 migrants are “victims of another kind of racial holocaust,” Castro said.

    Well, Fidel, first of all you’ve got it wrong.  No-one is expelling French gypsies.  The repatriated travellers hold Romanian and Bulgarian nationality, not French.  They mostly leave voluntarily, with 300 euros of French taxpayers money in their pockets, plus 100 euros for every one of their children.   European law is perfectly clear that the Roma have the right to travel freely within Europe, but no right to set up unlicensed and insanitary shanty-town encampments wherever they like.  Moreover, they are perfectly entitled to return at any time to France.

    Cubans risk sharks, exposure and drowning on an inner-tube raft

    Secondly, what makes you, Mr Castro think you are in any position to opine aloud on the subject of cruelty.  Let’s not forget that your Cuba does not allow its citizens the freedom to leave, and for many years did not allow American naturalised Cubans to return to Cuba – not even to visit dying parents or other family.

    Thirdly, Mr Castro, it’s perhaps because you’re so senile now that you don’t remember the thousands of your countrymen who died in the attempt to escape from your regime.  Over the years of your presidency, hundreds of thousands of the bravest and best among your island’s population, desperate Continue reading “Roma expulsions – a reply to Castro, the senile arch-hypocrite” »

    Human Rights and the Roma

    So far Frogsiders has made no comment on the clearing of “Roma” encampments in France and the repatriation of their gypsy inhabitants to Romania.

    Now, however, it’s time to get this matter into perspective.  Something that evidently the Gypsy leader, Iulian Radulescu, does not want to happen.

    Gypsy "leader", Iulian Radulescu

    He recently compared French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Romania’s pro-Nazi wartime dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu.  Radulescu suggested the expulsions were similar to those carried out by Antonescu’s regime in 1942, when 25,000 gypsies were deported from Romania to the Soviet region of Trans-Dniester. Some 11,000 of them died from exposure, typhus, starvation and thirst.

    “Sarkozy is doing what Antonescu did,” Radulescu said.  Newspapers around the world (literally) have actually printed this ridiculous Continue reading “Human Rights and the Roma” »

    No truth in the lurid rumours

    La Bruni - and the author?

    I am seriously concerned about rumours of a book to be published this month about the life and loves of Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.  The work is supposed to be by someone called Besma Lahouri – a crude and obvious nom-de-plume. Security around the book is tight and the Paris publishers, Flammarion, have not even disclosed its title.

    “It’s a robust, anything-goes book which contains explosive revelations about everything from Carla’s relationship with secret lovers to plastic surgeons,” said a publishing source.

    Naturally on hearing this I immediately contacted my lawyers and instructed them to take urgent steps to ensure that any mention of me in the book was to be blocked.

    I am obviously most anxious that no scandalous story purporting to give lurid details of any supposed relationship between myself and Carla Bruni should emerge in the press, especially in view of the serious damage such wicked lies and fabrications might do to my England football career.

    Anyway, my own memoirs will reveal the whole true story in due course.

    Please don’t let this man’s wet ideas ruin French Schools

    Peter Gumbel, a British lecturer at the Institute of Political Science in Paris

    I do hope the French educational establishment will not be at all influenced by the British lecturer and journalist Peter Gumbel, who is complaining that French schools are producing students with low self-esteem.

    Although admitting that, “unlike the British or the Americans the French have resisted the temptation to dumb down their curriculum,” that, “children leave school at 18 with an admirably comprehensive knowledge of history, geography, maths, science and the liberal arts,” and that, “ you don’t need to spend a fortune on private schools, because the state system provides the best education in the country,” Gumbel wants French schools and teachers to be less critical of pupils’ mistakes and to encourage them to have higher self-esteem.

    If France takes any notice of Mr. Gumbel it will soon end up with exams that no-one can fail, and over-confident, top graded,  A* students entering university to find they don’t have even the basic skills and minimal knowledge required to start their degree courses.

    Just like Britain, in fact

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