3 - Institut Francais

3 - Institut Francais

The Institut Francais, which engages in promoting French culture and language in Edinburgh (and Scotland in general), occupies an imposing Royal Mile building which befits the grand and distinguished ties between Scotland and France.

The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, begun in 1295, endured through mutual military, cultural, and economic co-operation, for 400 years. United by a military stake in subverting the English, Scottish mercenary troops were regularly to be seen aiding the French army during the Hundred Years' War. The Alliance extended into the world of wine too, as Scots were given, as a result of their fidelity, the first choice of Bordeaux wines - these 'first-dibs' wines were unloaded at Leith Docks, just North of the City. This began a taste for French wine which endures to this day!

The impact of this alliance on Scotland is most clear in its separate, decidedly European, legal system ('Scots law'), its food - simplistic preparations which owe a great deal to French cuisine - and the import of French academia and philosophy, even after the Alliance lapsed (due to the Reformation here in Scotland). French ideas during The Enlightenment had an acute effect on Scotland, influencing the key figures of the period in Scotland, like David Hume and Adam Smith - Edinburgh, in its philosophy, took a very French approach!

After the fall of the Alliance, Scots maintained a fond view of France, which became a focal point of the political ambitions of the Jacobites in Scotland, and the legacy of French ideas is eminent.

The Institut itself hosts French language classes and cultural events, and runs a bistrot, which, along with several other French restaurants in the capital, facilitates acclaimed French cuisine here. Its position in the very heart of Edinburgh's governmental, judicial, and religious centres is testament to the closeness of the two nations.

Breadandcheese, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons