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From banking to wine: four surprising Scottish-French ties

There is plenty more binding the two nations together than a historic mistrust of the English

France and Scotland have maintained close ties since the Auld Alliance of 1295 Pic: esfera / Shutterstock

We look at four historical figures and events which link France to Scotland. 

1. John Law 

John Law was a Scottish economist born in 1671 who fled London for France after killing a man in a duel.

He rose to become Controller-General of Finances (akin to prime minister at the time), created France’s first national bank and became head of France’s business assets in North America.

His revolutionary banking system went a long way to establishing paper money as a replacement for gold.

It all ended in ruin, though, after the American venture collapsed, plunging France into a financial crisis. 

2. The Auld Alliance

The Auld Alliance stretches back to 1295 and saw Scotland and France pledge to aid each other against the common enemy, the English.

On a trip to Edinburgh in 1942, Charles de Gaulle declared the alliance “the oldest in the world”.

There is some dispute as to when it ended, or if it even has, so it is not clear whether his claim was accurate. But it is a fine sentiment, which he backed up by telling his Scottish audience: “No people has ever been more generous than yours with its friendship.”

3. Claret

French wine from the Bordeaux region used to be the favoured drink in Scotland. 

As well as being a military pact, the 1295 Auld Alliance gave Scottish merchants privileged access to the finest French wines. 

For centuries, bottles were imported straight to Scotland, bypassing England, where nobles and the working class consumed it in great quantities.

It was not until much later that the Highlander drink of whisky overtook wine as the Lowlanders’ favourite tipple. 

Read more: Whisky production in France is picking up pace

4. Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson, one of Scotland’s best-known writers, also has a strong tie to France.

In the 1870s, he came here to recuperate from an illness and walked through the south-central mountain range, the Cévennes, with his donkey. 

He wrote a story about this trip – Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes – and today his route is a known walking trail called the Chemin de Stevenson, running 225km through Haute-Loire, Lozère and Gard.

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