French migration to the United Kingdom

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French people in the United Kingdom
Total population
French-born residents
137,862 (2011 Census)
150,000 (2013 ONS estimate)
French ancestry
3,000,000 (2010 estimate)
Regions with significant populations
London, South East England
English, French
Mainly Roman Catholicism and Protestantism;
minorities practice other or no faiths
Related ethnic groups
French people

French migration to the United Kingdom is a phenomenon that has occurred at various points in history. The Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 resulted in the arrival of French aristocracy, while in the 16th and 17th centuries Protestant Huguenots fled religious persecution to East London. Other waves (but less likely to have put down permanent roots) are associated with monasticism, particularly post -conquest Benedictines and Cistercians, aristocracy fleeing the French Revolution, expulsion of religious orders by Third Republic France, and current economic migrants (seeking employment opportunities not necessarily open to their British counterparts in France).

The 2011 UK Census recorded 137,862 French-born people living in the UK. Almost half of these were resident in the capital, London. Many more British people have French ancestry.

French remains the foreign language most learned by Britons. It has traditionally been spoken as a second language by the country's educated classes and its popularity is reinforced by the close geographical proximity between Great Britain and France.


Much of the UK's medieval aristocracy was descended from Franco-Norman migrants to England at or after the time of the Norman Conquest. Well known families that originated from the Norman Conquest period, include the Grosvenor family whose original name was "Gros Veneur" meaning (in Norman) "great hunter" or "grand hunter". Their legacy can be found throughout much of London with at least five hundred roads, squares and buildings bearing their family names and titles, and the names of place and people connected with them, including Grosvenor Square and Grosvenor House. The ancestors of the Molyneux family, the Earls of Sefton who arrived in England around the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 bore the name "de Molines". They came from Molineaux-sur-Seine, near Rouen, in Normandy where they were guardians of Château de Robert-le-Diable also known as Château de Moulineaux. A large number of British people are also descended from the Huguenots, French Protestants who in the 16th and 17th centuries fled religious persecution in France. Although a substantial French Protestant community existed in London from the sixteenth century, the suppression of Protestantism in France in the 1680s led to a mass migration of predominantly Calvinist refugees, most of whom settled in London. Divided between Spitalfields in the east and Soho in the west, the French Protestant community was one of the largest and most distinctive communities of the capital.

Population and distribution[edit]

The 2011 UK Census recorded 127,601 French-born residents in England, 2,203 in Wales,[1] 7,147 in Scotland,[2] and 911 in Northern Ireland,[3] making a UK total of 137,862. The previous, 2001 UK Census, had recorded 96,281 French-born residents.[4] The Office for National Statistics estimates that 150,000 French-born immigrants were resident in the UK in 2013.[5]

Of the French-born people recorded by the 2011 census, 66,654 (48.4 per cent) lived in Greater London and 22,584 (16.4 per cent) in South East England. Within London, particular concentrations were recorded in the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham.[1] There are several French schools in London, some independent, and others, La Petite École Française in west London and the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, situated in South Kensington and run by the French state. The French Consulate in London has estimated that 270,000 French people live in the city, but the ONS contests this, pointing out that the number of French passport holders recorded by the 2011 census was only 86,000. The French Embassy's estimate includes London plus "the south eastern quadrant of the UK including Kent, Oxfordshire and maybe Sussex too".[6]

Many British people have French ancestry. According to a 2010 study by, three million British people are of French descent.[7]


French international schools in the United Kingdom:

Notable people[edit]

Famous British people with French ancestry include Davina McCall, Louis Theroux, Simon Le Bon, Noel Fielding and Emma Watson.[7] French chefs working in the UK include Raymond Blanc, who has spent most of his working life in Britain and presents cookery programmes on British television,[8] and brothers Albert and Michel Roux, who in 1982 were the first chefs in Britain to be awarded three Michelin stars, for their cooking at Le Gavroche.[9] At the start of the 2011–12 season, there were more French-born footballers playing in the Premier League than any other nationality, apart from British and Irish.[10] Frenchman Arsène Wenger is the Premier League's longest serving current manager, having taken over the role at Arsenal F.C. in October 1996.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2011 Census: QS203EW Country of birth (detailed), local authorities in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  2. ^ "Country of birth (detailed)" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  3. ^ "Country of Birth – Full Detail: QS206NI". Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  4. ^ "Country-of-birth database". Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Archived from the original on 4 May 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  5. ^ "Table 1.3: Overseas-born population in the United Kingdom, excluding some residents in communal establishments, by sex, by country of birth, January 2013 to December 2013". Office for National Statistics. 2 July 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2015.  Figure given is the central estimate. See the source for 95 per cent confidence intervals.
  6. ^ Stephenson, Wesley (1 April 2014). "Is London really France's 'sixth biggest city'?". BBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Wardrop, Murray (12 April 2010). "Britons can trace French ancestry after millions of records go online". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 August 2015. The documents disclose that despite our rivalry with our continental counterparts, 3 million Britons - one in 20 – can trace their ancestry back to France 
  8. ^ Frith, Maxine (2 November 2012). "Top (French) chef Raymond Blanc admits British are best at food". Evening Standard. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Sansom, Ian (1 January 2011). "Great dynasties of the world: The Roux family". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Bowater, Donna (12 August 2011). "Premier League: which countries are the players from?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "Manager profile — Arsène Wenger". Premier League. Archived from the original on 22 August 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 

External links[edit]