‘Perfidious Albion’ trending after UK’s move on Northern Ireland Protocol – what does it mean and what are its origins?
The phrase ‘perfidious Albion’ has popped up again this week in relation to the UK’s plans to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
oris Johnson wants to change the protocol to make it easier for some goods to move between Britain and Northern Ireland. However, the European Union is against the move, saying it would break international law.
The term ‘perfidious Albion’ is not new and has been in use since before the 12th century, it also raised its head during Brexit talks.
So, what does the phrase mean?
It’s first use is attributed to the French playwright Augustin Louis de Ximénes. He has a line in his 1793 poem L’Ere des Francais, which says: “Let us attack perfidious Albion in her waters.”
The term is used to describe the UK’s role in different political events.
The word ‘perfidious’ is an adjective which comes from the Latin noun ‘perfidia’, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary refers to the quality or state of being faithless or disloyal and treachery or an act or an instance of disloyalty.
Albion is an alternative name for England or Great Britain. Therefore, perfidious Albion means a disloyal Britain.
The Irish ballad The Foggy Dew includes the term in its lyrics. The song concerns the Easter Rising and the perceived hypocrisy that England is concurrently fighting World War I so that “small nations might be free”, while Ireland’s struggle for freedom is forcibly suppressed.
The song which also references the many Irishmen who enlisted in the British army and suggests that it was far better to die “neath an Irish sky” than fight in far off lands for England.