What is perfidious Albion?

Perfidious Albion is a term used by some people to describe the British Empire. It is a term that suggests that the British were deceitful and treacherous in their dealings as an Empire. As such it is a term used by those wanting to portray the British Empire in a negative light. The term is quite old but in the context of the British Empire (it was used about England previously) it is commonly attributed to French playwright Augustin Louis de Ximénès. 

Origin of the term

Ximénès wrote in the French Revolutionary period. At this time there was discontent among French circles with the attitude of the British. The perception was that the revolutionary ideas about democracy had been applauded by the British until they discovered that it would not be a monarchy. This was then followed by Britain joining forces with other European nations to wage war against post Revolution France.

Usage of the term perfidious Albion

It has been used since then by a variety of people in their criticisms of the British. Mussolini’s fascists used the term to criticise Britain’s empire and dominance. In particular during and just after the Abyssinian Crisis.

Following the First World War it was used, again by the Italians, to criticise Great Britain for not enforcing the full terms of the Treaty of London. This led to the treaties being termed a mutilated victory. It has been used as a criticism of Britain’s role in Palestine, again just after the First World War.