As a French historian working at The National Archives, I am particularly interested in the Entente Cordiale. As an archaeologist, I am particularly sensitive to its egyptological side. My colleague James Cronan mentioned, a few months ago, the third paragraph of Article 1 of the Entente, which says: ‘It is agreed that the post of Director-General of Antiquities in Egypt shall continue, as in the past, to be entrusted to a French savant’. There is a bit more to the story, and the Entente wasn’t that cordiale when it came to Egyptology: nine months after it was signed, a party of drunken Frenchmen tried to force their way into an ancient site, and the British Egyptologist supervising archaeological matters in Lower Egypt was exiled to some unsavoury city in the Delta of the Nile.
The first report written by Lord Cromer, the British Agent and Consul-General in Egypt, regarding what the British could afford to give France in Egypt against the assurance that the French ‘would not obstruct the action of Great Britain in that country’, didn’t mention Egyptology. It seems that, in the first three months of the negotiations, no-one thought of it at all. In December 1903, however, Théophile Delcassé, the French Foreign Minister, asked Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador in London, to raise the issue of the French civil servants in Egypt. Cromer thought the British government could ‘afford to be very generous’ on that particular point, but it was more about granting them financial compensation for the loss of their jobs than about preserving them.