Visit of The French Fleet Serviette

In August of 1905, Portsmouth was the setting for a major international event when the French fleet visited the country. The Entente Cordiale had been signed the year before and so the diplomatic environment was ripe for a visit by the French Navy to the UK. Portsmouth pulled out all the stops for their Gallic visitors: 

To celebrate the arrival of the French Fleet on Monday August 7 1905 Portsmouth certainly went to town. The Town Hall was decorated as were many other public buildings. Trams were cover in ribbons and gave free rides to the matelots, The fleet arrived at 1pm on the Monday and stayed for a week. So many people came down from the northern parts of the city that receipts were Ā£1,500 up on the previous best week. 

After this, the sailors of the French Fleet travelled to London and festivities there. A variety of souvenirs were produced for the public to purchase and today we are looking at a crepe printed napkin produced for the event. These were amongst the cheapest souvenirs produced, costing just a few pennies and were suitable for those of all pockets. They are inherently fragile which makes the survival of this one all the more remarkable: 

The serviette is printed in both English and French and has the images of both King Edward VII and Emile Loubert, the then French president: 

Details of the visit itself are printed below: 


  1. Seeing things printed in both English and French is pretty much mandatory here and what surprised me the most about this was that it looked completely ordinary until I realized it might have been uncommon in the day.
    Of course this calls for yet another quirky anecdote I’m going to share whether anyone wants to hear it or not šŸ˜‰
    I was on Sqn with a pilot, originally from Norway, who spoke seven languages fluently and had no detectable accent in English.
    He was denied a bilingual allowance because none of them were french…

    • Misremembered, it happens šŸ˜‰
      He was Dutch but he came to us via Norway because we still used F5’s and that’s what he liked to fly.

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