Talleyrand, one of the greatest French diplomats, once said, “Give me a good chef and I will bring you back a good treaty.”
This must be what the chefs at Windsor Castle had in mind, preparing the finest British cuisine for the State Banquet in honour of President Sarkozy.
In response, the French President was effusive in his praise as he ‘Sar-cosied’ up to Britain, calling for a fraternal bond between the two rival European nations.
Even the elegant gown of the timeless French First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, was a study in fashion diplomacy – a Dior designed by British export John Galliano, a masterstroke that had fashion editors gushing with superlatives.
A handful of Embassy readers – ambassadors from neighbouring countries – witnessed the occasion. Belgian Ambassador Jean-Michel Veranneman de Watervliet volunteered to describe it: “Majesty and friendliness, golden wine coolers and gigantic flowers on the tables, national anthems and pipers, medals and uniforms, fine vintage wines and perfect organisation, coats of arms on the ceiling and staff that serves excellent food with that halfway mix of friendliness and respect.
“Only in Britain can an evening like that be brought to a perfect conclusion, without noticeable stress or fuss, yet leaving everyone with a rich and colourful memory.”
And clearly the love-in did the trick: the Anglo-French summit the following day was a success. President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised cooperation on a range of issues, from immigration, defence and nuclear issues to reforming international financial institutions and working together on development.
It was a diplomatic triumph of which Talleyrand would have been proud.