There's a phrase "La Belle France" used (at least in England) as a stereotypical way to refer to France.

It might be similar to (or well-known in the same as) the phrase "Merry England".

What is the origin of this phrase "La Belle France"? Is it well-known in France too (I see it's a brand name) or is it mostly an English expression?

Do you know who coined the phrase or when, is it a quote from somewhere? If it is a stereotype then what (e.g. which century? town or country life?) is it a stereotype of?

  • France is nice... :) – Random Jul 23 '15 at 14:09
  • It is, yes; but I'd like to know whether, when, and to whom it may be appropriate to say "La Belle France" and whether the phrase has some implicit meaning I don't know about. – ChrisW Jul 23 '15 at 14:11
  • "Belle France" is a trade noun, with no history ; "La Belle France" is a pamphlet and can be understood in many ways. – Personne Jul 23 '15 at 16:57

Searching on google, I found this :

« La Belle France » est un pamphlet de Georges Darien publié en 1900. C’est probablement l’un des pamphlets politiques les plus puissants et les plus violents que nous connaissions, tout là-haut avec Napoléon le petit de Victor Hugo, avec le Discours de la servitude volontaire de La Boétie. « La Belle France » n’est pas un pamphlet, c’est un exercice de tauromachie. « La Belle France », c’est la mise à mort de la Belle Epoque.

→ « La Belle France » is a lampoon of Georges Darien publicated in 1900. It is probably one of the most powerful and violent politic lampoons we know, with Napoléon le Petit from Victor Hugo and with Discours de la servitude volontaire from La Boétie. « La Belle France » is not a lampoon, it is a bullfighting exercise. « La Belle France » is the killing of la Belle Epoque.

This article, if you can read French, explain about what the text is and from where, I think, is coming the expression you describe.

We can see on ngram that this expression is existing already, but maybe not with this negative connotation. I believe G. Darien has used an already existing expression to criticize it and all what it represended.

  • If you think you can improve my translation, feel free to edit. – Yohann V. Jul 23 '15 at 14:39
  • Why pick that specific pamphlet? Are you saying that the phrase is, now, because of that pamphlet, understood to be sarcastic or pejorative? – ChrisW Jul 23 '15 at 16:03
  • Le premier lien est très riche en explications :) – Personne Jul 23 '15 at 16:52
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    @ChrisW : Darien wasn't the first to use the phrase. His use is ironical and personal and if people use it (if it used at all outside travel guides) it is used just for what it means. I gather it is more of a phrase in English as it is in French! – None Jul 23 '15 at 17:50
  • @ChrisW I pick this lampoon (=/= pamphlet in English but = pamphlet in French) because its name is « La Belle France ». G. Darien wasn't the first to use this calling, and won't be the last for sure, but his lampoon is a pretty good first publication underlining how this expression can have a sarcastic and corrosive meaning. Did you understand what was written in the link? It is very interesting for you imho. – Yohann V. Jul 24 '15 at 6:33

Is it well-known in France too (I see it's a brand name) or is it mostly an English expression?

The brand name is anecdotal with probably a close to zero average level of recognition.

La Belle France is mostly an English expression, notwithstanding that would be La belle France in French (unless it is a title), it is not commonly used here, especially with the stereotypical meaning you describe.

On the other hand, a pretty close well known French expression is :

Elle est belle, la France !

It is typically used in an ironical way by French people while complaining about some unpleasant fact about France.

It is well possible La Belle France was coined from Elle est belle, la France.


A more careful search with ngram finds the phrase being used by La Fontaine ... I'm not saying he invented the phrase, maybe it was a commonplace in speech even in his time.

  • You have to decide if you want the origin of the sarcastic idiom, or the origin of people calling their country beautiful – Yohann V. Jul 24 '15 at 7:56
  • I wanted the origin of the idiom; I had no premonition that the idiom was ever used sarcastically. – ChrisW Jul 24 '15 at 10:50
  • But, the usage you described is sarcastical. The litteral meaning is The Beautiful France. – Yohann V. Jul 24 '15 at 12:47
  • @Divulgâchâmes "Merry England" probably implies feasting and music, in the feudal ages. I was wondering whether "Belle France" suggests anything specific, like milk-maids and geese, or the cafe life, or the Age of Enlightenment, or etc.? – ChrisW Jul 24 '15 at 13:36
  • Imho, there is no way for someone who is not privy to this to know beforehand it refers to the stereotype. Yes and that's why I was asking: given that it is an idiomatic compound phrase, is there some stereotypical meaning associated with it? – ChrisW Jul 24 '15 at 14:04

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