The Paris Embassy of Sir Eric Phipps, 1937-1939
When Sir Eric Phipps arrived in Paris in April 1937 to begin his duties as H.M. Ambassador at Paris, he had just completed four years service as HM Ambassador at Berlin where he had achieved a reputation as a staunch anti-Nazi and as an anti-appeaser. By the end of his tenure at Paris in October 1939, however, he was widely accused of being a "defeatist/appeaser" and his reputation has never recovered. When Phipps left Berlin, German military power was in its ascendancy. He arrived in Paris at the age of 62 when French military preparations were at their nadir and the Popular Front was disintegrating. These factors led him to support that French political faction which was opposed to a resolute French policy and which by inclination was not Anglophile. This put him out of step with, and open to criticism from, the Foreign Office. His consciousness of French economic, political and military weakness propelled Phipps into playing a role which French historians have termed that of "the English Governess" towards the French, pressing them into adopting British policies and interfering in their internal affairs. While this was within the general framework of his instructions from the Foreign Office, he pursued his conception of Chamberlain's appeasement policy with a zeal that seems to have been based on closer contact with the Prime Minister and his entourage rather than with his professional colleagues. From the Spring of 1939 onwards, Phipps adopted a firmer attitude towards Germany bringing him more into conformity with the new orientation of British policy. On instructions from London, he took advantage of divisions in the French Cabinet to support Bonnet in bringing pressure on Daladier to make concessions to Italy which brought him into increasingly direct contact with 10 Downing Street. At the onset of the war, Phipps was a resolute advocate of a total Anglo-French victory over Nazi Germany.