Links between Brittany & Great Britain

Brittany’s links with the British Isles

Brittany has especially long, strong connections with the British Isles. Well before the Romans arrived, trading across the Channel thrived and while after mass Dark Ages immigration, things turned sour as merchants, corsairs and armies battled with each other across the Channel, matters could be quite different behind the scene at court. Then along came tourism to bring mutual benefit and joy.

Sharing from prehistory 

Breton links with Cornwall and Wales couldn’t be more obvious than in the shared place names you can find either side of the Channel. Even as far back as Neolithic times, it seems trading links were strong across the Channel, and in Celtic times, they were also important. In the Dark Ages came hugely influential mass migrations south across the ‘Breton Sea’, as the Channel is nicely known in Breton.

Love and hate

Bretons and Britons supported each other against the Vikings, however Breton soldiers were instrumental in William the Conqueror’s victory over King Harold. With conflict dominating relations, matters were complex; Arthur of Brittany almost became English monarch instead of bad King John and later, English forces helped establish the most powerful medieval Breton dukes. In the colonial wars, major naval battles were fought off Breton shores; the French won at St-Cast, but lost disastrously in Quiberon Bay. Diplomacy was tried: a stunning Breton aristocrat, Louis de Kéroualle, sent to woo Charles II to Louis XIV’s side, ended up in the English monarch’s bed – Princess Diana was apparently descended from this mission.

British tourist pioneers 

The fashion for seaside resorts was largely imported from Britain and the US and it was an American, Mrs Faber, who kicked things off for Dinard. Other favourite Breton resorts for the Brits have included Bénodet, Concarneau and Pont-Aven, attracting families and yachtsmen in droves, plus painters, including one Winston Churchill.

Did you know?

During the Second World War, British soldiers supporting the Resistance were smuggled back over the Channel from a Breton beach ironically code-named Plage Napoléon.

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