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Why there's French on UK passports

Jake Massey

Published 
| Last updated 

Why there's French on UK passports

You may recall a little thing a few years ago called Brexit, which ushered in a new era of navy blue UK passports. But if Brexit really does mean Brexit, then why is the French language on the flipping things?

If you take a look at your passport, you'll see the phrases 'Dieu et mon droit' and 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' on the coat of arms on the front.

The blue passport was introduced in 2020. Credit: Archwhite / Alamy Stock Photo
The blue passport was introduced in 2020. Credit: Archwhite / Alamy Stock Photo

The former phrase means 'God and my right', which is the motto of the monarchy, first used as a battle cry by King Richard I as he went into battle against Philip II of France in 1198, according to The Sun.

'Honi soit qui mal y pense' means 'shame on he who thinks evil of it' and dates back to King Edward III - when Norman French was a common language in the UK - and is the motto of the Order of the Garter.

As for the inside of your passport, you may have spotted the French translations on your all-important photo page.

For example, next to name it says 'nom', while next to date of issue it says 'date de délivrance'.

Well, these captions are due to recommendations from the UN agency the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), according to The Connexion.

A UK Home Office spokesperson told the publication: "The ICAO requests that where the official language of the issuing state is English, French or Spanish, the issuing state should also print passport captions in one of the other two languages.

"So it's just to fulfil this requirement."

Ironically, the blue passports - which rolled out in March 2020 - are made by a Franco-Dutch firm.

The colour change was seen as symbolic. Credit: Sam Oaksey / Alamy Stock Photo
The colour change was seen as symbolic. Credit: Sam Oaksey / Alamy Stock Photo

Gemalto won the contract, which angered Brexiteers, who saw the colour change as a symbol of UK independence.

The news sparked a backlash, with Tory MP Sir Bill Cash stating: "I think it is incongruous to say the least. It is completely unnecessary and it is symbolically completely wrong.

"Whatever the conditions which led to the decision in terms of pricing, the fact is that this is a symbolic event."

Meanwhile, Priti Patel told The Sun: "This should be a moment that we should be celebrating. The return of our iconic blue passport will re-establish the British identity.

"But to be putting the job in the hands of the French is simply astonishing. It is a national humiliation."

Featured Image Credit: Ian Dagnall / Terry Waller / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Travel

Jake Massey
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