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Polish–French relations date several centuries, although they became really relevant only with times of French Revolution and reign of Napoleon I. Poles were allies of Napoleon; a large Polish community settled in France in the 19th century, and Poles and French were also allies during the interwar period. Never in history has a Polish army fought against its French counterpart and the other way around. The official relations, having cooled down during the Cold War, have improved since the fall of communism. Currently both countries are part of the European Union and NATO.
Before the 18th century
Polish–French relations were limited until the 18th century, due to geographical distance and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's lack of involvement in the wars of Western Europe. A notable exception occurred in 1573, when Henry III of France was elected as the king of Poland, but he retired from that position the next year. French Order of the Holy Spirit was dedicated to the Holy Spirit for commemorating fact that Henry III was elected King of Poland (1573) and France (1574) on two Pentecosts.
Two Polish Kings Władysław IV Vasa and John II Casimir Vasa were married to a French Princess Ludwika Maria Gonzaga. After his abdication in 1668 John II Casimir returned to France, where he joined the Jesuits and became abbot of Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. His heart was buried there. In the late 17th century, Polish king John III Sobieski was married to a French princess, Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d'Arquien, and tried to forge a Polish–French alliance.
Charles-Paris d'Orléans, François Louis, Prince of Conti, Henri Jules, Prince of Condé, Henri Jules, Prince of Condé, Louis, Prince of Condé (1621–1686) were candidates for the Polish elective throne.
In the early 18th century, Stanisław Leszczyński, king of Poland, who tried to continue Sobieski's efforts and align Poland with France, after losing a civil war in Poland (the War of the Polish Succession), retired to France. In the mid-18th century, his daughter, Polish princess Marie Leszczyńska was the queen consort of France, and wife of Louis XV of France.
During Anti-Russian Confederation of Bar French Court Royal supported Polish confederates by sending of French officers under Charles François Dumouriez. In the late 18th century both Poland and France entered a revolutionary period, with French Revolution being a major influence to the reforms of the Great Sejm in Poland. There was, however, never any official Polish–French alliance; in fact France was content to deflect some of its troubles by not allying itself with Poland on purpose, as Poland's neighbors (Kingdom of Prussia, Austrian Empire and Russian Empire) expecting a formation of such an alliance, and seeing Polish reforms as a sign of Jacobinite influence, were busy carrying out the partitions of Poland and had less resources to spare dealing with events in France.
Napoleon's creation of the Duchy of Warsaw gave every appearance of resurrecting the Polish nation from the political grave to which it had been consigned in the partitions that ended 1795, though in real terms the 'independence' was no more meaningful than that of Congress Poland, which emerged from the Vienna settlement. However, the Duchy represented the hope of true independence, whereas Congress Poland was always in the shadow of Russia.
The other lasting significance of Napoleon's Grand Duchy is that it 'cast off' the old feudal Poland, which still existed, to some degree, under the rule of the partitioning powers. Serfdom was abolished and a modern legal code, on the French model, introduced. But the truly important thing was the contribution the Napoleonic period made towards the creation of a national legend or myth, which was to sustain and comfort Poles down the decades that followed. Amongst other things, it contributed to a belief that the rest of Europe had an abiding interest in the fate of Poland, arising from Bonaparte's support in 1797 for the formation of Polish Legions, recruited from amongst émigrés and other exiles living in Italy. The Polish national anthem, "Dąbrowski's Mazurka", is really a celebration of the Legion's commander, Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, and Napoleon is only mentioned in passing. Indeed, Napoleon's treatment of these soldiers was cynical in the extreme. After the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801, they were sent to the West Indies to suppress the slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, the future Haiti. Most never returned.
Napoleon continued to use Poles where it suited him best. Of the fresh forces raised after the creation of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, some 10,000 were actually sent to fight against the Spanish and the British in the Peninsular War. However, it is reasonably safe to assume that the Poles were most enthusiastic about the 1812 war against Russia-which Napoleon called the Second Polish War-as they formed by far the largest foreign contingent of the Grand Army. We have no precise information on what form the peace would have taken if Napoleon had won his war against Alexander, but many Poles held to the belief that it would, at the very least, have led to a fully restored Poland, including Lithuania; a return, in other words, to the situation prior to the first partition in 1772. The whole experience of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw is one of Polish confidence in the promise of Napoleon, a promise of a better future, though there is really nothing that proves he would have fulfilled these expectations.
It really is only fair to say that Polish national determination did make an impact on Czar Alexander I, because he accepted that there could be no return to the position prevailing in 1795, when Poland truly had been extinguished. On his insistence, lands that had fallen to Prussia on the Third Partition, including the city of Warsaw, became part of his new 'Polish State', a satellite state that had a high degree of political latitude and one preserved the Napoleonic code. Alexander may have hoped to transfer some of the fierce loyalty the Poles had formerly shown towards his great rival towards himself; but he merely perpetuated a myth. The hope of a liberal Poland, of Napoleon's Poland was kept alive, until it was all but destroyed in the uprising of 1830–31. Thereafter, most of those who went into exile sought refuge in France, the home of the Napoleon myth, which gave it fresh life. In 1834, from his Paris exile, Adam Mickiewicz wrote his epic poem, Pan Tadeusz, which celebrates Napoleon's entry into Lithuania in 1812 thus; All sure of victory, cry with tears in eyes/God is with Napoleon, and Napoleon is with us!
Although the legend declined over the years, especially as Napoleon III offered no support to the Polish rising of 1863, it did not altogether die. It received fresh encouragement in 1918, as France was the only western power that offered unqualified support to the newly independent Poland. May 5, 1921, the hundredth anniversary of Napoleon's death, was formally marked by commemorations across the new nation. And he lives, and will continue to live, in the national anthem.
The Great Emigration was an immigration of political elites from Poland from 1831–1870, particularly after the November Uprising and January Uprising. Since the end of the 18th century, a major role in Polish political life was played by people who carried out their activities outside the country as emigres. Because of this emigration of political elites, much of the political and ideological activity of the Polish intelligentsia during the 18th and 19th centuries was done outside of the lands of partitioned Poland. Most of those political émigrés were based in France, seen by the Poles - freshly influenced by Napoleon - as the bastion of liberty in Europe.
During the interwar period, Poland and France were political and military allies. The cooperation between them was established under the political agreement signed in Paris on February 19, 1921. Starting with the Blue Army that aided France in World War I and French Military Mission to Poland during the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921), Franco-Polish Military Alliance was signed in 1921 and continued until German invasion of Poland.
World War II
After Nazi Germany's invasion and occupation of Poland, a new Polish Army formed in France under the command of General Władysław Sikorski in late 1939. Polish units included the 1st Grenadiers Division and others. Polish–French relations were however soured due to French unwillingness to aid Poland (the "Western betrayal"). After the fall of France in 1940 Polish–French relations were mostly ceased, but some Poles became part of the French Resistance.
During the Cold War, Polish–French relations were poor, due to both countries being on the opposite sides of the Cold War. However France was - again - a site of a thriving Polish emigrant community (see Kultura and Jerzy Giedroyc). Other prominent members of the Polish community in France of that period have included Rene Goscinny.
Polish–French relations have improved after the fall of communism.
France, as a founding member of the European Community, European Union, and NATO, as well as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a nuclear power, is one of Poland's principal political, economic, cultural, scientific and technological partners.
The year 2004 marked a breakthrough in Polish–French relations. After a period of tension caused by different approaches to the Iraq crisis and the European Constitution negotiations, relations improved. After the accession of Poland to the European Union on May 1, 2004, meetings of the heads of state from both countries have been organized yearly.
France is the largest contributor of foreign direct investment in Poland. The French companies with the largest presence in Poland include Orange, Vivendi, Carrefour, Casino, Crédit Agricole, Saint Gobain and Auchan.
Controversy was caused by the phrase "Polish Plumber", which appeared in France around 2005.
About one million ethnic Poles live in France, concentrated in the Nord-Pas de Calais region, in the metropolitan area of Lille and the coal-mining region (bassin minier) around Lens and Valenciennes. Polish mineurs' descendants are also found in Auberny.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2007)|
- Text in League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 18, pp. 12-13.
- Text of the agreement
- Andrzej Nieuwazny, Napoleon and Polish identity; History Today, Vol. 48, May 1998 ,  and 
- (French) Echanges franco-polonais - Polish–French relations described on the pages of the Polish Embassy in France
- Tomasz Majchrowski; Adam Halamski; Polish–French Relations, Yearbook of Polish Foreign Policy (01/2005), 
- (Polish) Stosunki francusko-polskie - post-1991 relations described on the pages of the French Embassy in Poland
- (Polish) Wojsko Polskie we Francji. Świat Polonii. - on 1940 Polish Army in France
- Maciej Serwanski, Henryk III Walezy w Polsce: Stosunki polsko-francuskie w latach 1566-1576, JSTOR review