Life and career
Charles Corbin was born in Paris, the son of Paul Corbin, an industrialist. He studied at the Collège Stanislas de Paris, a private Jesuit school where the father of Charles de Gaulle taught. He continued his education at the Faculté des Lettres at the Sorbonne. After World War I Corbin served in the press bureau of the French Foreign Ministry at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris. Here he made many British friends; he spoke English fluently and had a profound sympathy for Britain and British ways.
He was assigned to London as ambassador in 1933. His knowledge of economic affairs enabled him to arrange and skilfully preside over meetings of French and British civil servants between 1934 and 1939 – a period when the two nations were preparing for war with Germany.
Corbin was with Jean Monnet on 16 June 1940 when the proposal for the union of France and Britain was put to de Gaulle, who had been sent to London by the French Prime Minister, Paul Reynaud. The proposed Declaration of Union was a desperate last minute attempt to bolster French resistance in the face of defeatism among the ranks of the French cabinet, and thus keep the Franco-British alliance alive.
His subsequent diplomatic appointments were as ambassador to Belgium and to Spain.
Notes and sources
- "Mr Charles Corbin – A Distinguished French Diplomat", The Times, 28 September 1970: 10
- For further details of the proposed union between Britain and France, see 'Section 220.127.116.11 French reject Franco-British Union' in the article on Sir Edward Spears
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