Happy birthday : a Eurostar is born !

On November 14 1994, just twenty years ago, the first Eurostar connected Waterloo Station in London to Gare du Nord in Paris at a speed of 106,6 mph (171,5 km/h). An Anglo-French achievement between French Socialist President, and the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher who were total opposites : “There is a complicity between us, he explained, which can only be explained by the difference in our beliefs.”[1] François used to depict Margaret as having the mouth of Marilyn Monroe and the eyes of Caligula.

The French head of State got on much better with Elisabeth II, who was, according to genealogist Jacques Beaucarnot,  his 32 nd cousin. May be that is one of the reason why Charles Moore describes MR. Mitterrand as « the last man who could fill the role of his country’s strange elective monarchy »

A historical victory for François Mitterrand, who succeeded where Napoleon I and Napoleon III had failed, in tempering British reluctancy to renounce insularity.

The first plan of a tunnel under the channel were drawn in 1802  by a French mining engineer, Albert Mathieu. The Tunnel was to be lit by lamp oils and and horse-drawn coaches would ride until an artificial island in the middle of the Channel, where horses would be changed.

Of course, the French emperor  always bore in mind the possibility to invade Merry England. No wonder the perspective of such idea sounded like a very bad one for a long time in Britain.

Napoleon III, who is often underestimated by French history, and thus very popular in  England, could have been the right man for the job. The emperor, a real anglophile, who actually stayed many times in London and died in England,  wanted Paris to be as modern as London.

A serious project of mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris to Easwater point was that of  the French geologist, Aimé Thomé de Gamond ( 1856). 

But it was only in 1878 that an Anglo-French protocol was established.  On the English side and the French side, machine started digging until May 1882, when a British campaign advocating the tunnel would undermine British national defences put an end to the fabulous project. The tunnel were destroyed on both sides.

It looks like the notorious souvenir of William the Conqueror’s invasion, which changed British way of life,  remained vivid even after the famous « entente cordiale «  in 1904 which sealed peace between the two secular enemies. During WWII, the fear that German could dig under the Channel put an end to this dream. It is only from 1955 that the defence argument was given up. But it was never on the agenda until Margaret Thatcher opened the door saying that she did not object to the project provided it was privately funded…the British Prime minister and  the French President decided to go for it in 1981. 

As we say in French, a woman’s will is God’s will… Especially when François Mitterrand was nicknamed "God"

 

 

 

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