Honor and Grace

From Dreadnought, Robert Massie’s history of the German-British rivalry leading up to World War I, an account of Lord Kitchener confronting Captain Marchand’s small, beleaguered French force at Fashoda, where they were attempting to establish a colonial outpost in defiance of Britain’s mandate for Egypt:

  Herbert Kitchener was a Francophile who spoke French well. He admired Marchand’s achievement in crossing the continent. Marchand’s regard for Kitchener, who had defeated the Dervishes and in so doing eliminated a threat to his expedition, was equally great. They spoke in French. 

“I have come to resume possession of the Khedive’s dominions,” Kitchener said.
 “Mon General, I , Marchand, am here by order of the French Government. I thank you for you offer of conveyance to Europe, but I must wait here for instructions.”
 “Captain, I will place my boats at your disposal to return to Europe by the Nile.”
 “Mon General, I thank you, but I am awaiting orders from my Government.”
 “I must hoist the Egyptian flag here,” Kitchener observed.
 “Why, I myself will help you hoist it–over the village.”
 “Over the fort.”
 “No, that I shall resist.”
 “Do you know, Captain, that this affair may set France and England at war?”
Marchand bowed without replying.
 “You have achieved something remarkable, very remarkable, but you know the French Government will not back you up.”
Marchand replied that, in any case, he would wait for his government’s instructions. In the meantime, he declared, he would die before hauling down the flag of France.
 Kitchener then turned slowly around and gazed at his own expedition of thousand of officers and men, flushed with victory. “We are the stronger,” he observed. Marchand bowed again. They reached a compromise: the Egyptian flag was raised over an outlying section of the fort and the French flag remained where it was.

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