After the November 2015 Paris attacks, the London Eye was illuminated in blue, white and red, the colours of the French flag, as a memorial to the attacks. The British People – as the most people throughout the world – showed their solidarity with France and the French People. The hashtag #prayforparis went viral.
It was the 15th of June, 1940, when the archbishop of Canterbury concluded the service at Canterbury Cathedral with the following words: “To stay upon God will be our greatest strength”. He was praying for French soldiers and the people of France. In his sermon, he paid tribute to the heroic tenacity, determination and courage of the French armies. No building was illuminated and no hashtag went viral, but that Day of Prayer was held in churches of all denominations throughout Britain and the commonwealth to show loyalty and solidarity with “that sweet enemy”1 France. Why France? The day before, on June 14th, the Wehrmacht had marched into Paris and the Maginot line was about to collapse. Many French were already trying to leave the country, some managed to escape to Britain. The Day of Prayer was usually observed as a day of intercession for international and individual welfare, but on this occasion its special prayer was dedicated to France as an expression of solidarity and unity with the French Allies.
Following the London Times report from 17th of June there was a big congregation at Westminster Chapel. The British King George VI. and his wife, Elizabeth, attended a service at Royal Chapel in Windsor Great Park. Haakon VII, the King of Norway, accompanied by his son was present at Norwegian Church in Rotherhithe. Queen Wilhelmina was at the Netherlands Reformed Church. At the Eglise Protestante Francaise representatives of Belgium, Russia and Italy were among the worshippers.
This Day of Prayer may be seen as a symbol of the beginning of British-French solidarity and efforts in Britain’s politics and society to welcome French refugees in their own country. Even the arrival of the notoriously difficult Charles de Gaulles only two days later was not going to change this.
- Tombs, Isabelle / Tombs, Robert (2006), That Sweet Enemy. The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present, London, William Heinemann.