In 1945 did Charles De Gaulle really say to Winston Churchill, in reference to the military aid that the Allies provided to France to defeat Germany, that "We shall stun you with our ingratitude"
? Monday, November 22 was the birthday of De Gaulle, and a number of
marked the occasion by posting this quotation (they seem to have picked it up from an article in the Belfast Telegraph
). So did De Gaulle really say this?
Even though the tense verbal exchanges between De Gaulle and Churchill are well known, this particular remark sounded hoaxy to me. A quick google search didn't turn up any source that could verify the remark, though it did pull up an essay
noting that Churchill once quoted to De Gaulle a passage from Plutarch: "ingratitude towards great men is the mark of a strong people."
So it's possible that De Gaulle responded to this comment by saying that the French would stun Churchill with their ingratitude (in which context, the remark would be a compliment).
However, a second, more thorough google search revealed that the 'stunning ingratitude' quotation has been attributed to a number of other people besides De Gaulle. This 2003 article in theage.com.au
attributes it to the prime minister of the Hapsburg Empire: When, in 1848, Tsarist Russia intervened to put down an insurrection in Hungary, thus saving the Hapsburg Empire which was then in deep trouble, the Hapsburg prime minister commented that: "We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude."
But quite a few other people (including the conservative columnists Pat Buchanan
and George Will
) credit the remark to the Italian statesman Camillo Benso Cavour
: The Sardinian minister who guided his country to the unification of Italy in the mid-1800, Cavour, did so with French help in a war with Austria. Without the French Army the Austrians would probably still have been ruling Northern Italy in 1914. Cavour's comment was that someday the Italians would astonish the world with their ingratitude to France.
I suspect that Cavour is the true source of the saying. In which case, it's ironic that a remark originally referring to ingratitude towards
France has now come full circle and is being used to demonstrate (supposedly) the ingratitude of