Today, Prince Charles received France’s highest honour, the Légion d’honneur, on behalf of the City of London - for its role in the Second World War : leading the fight-back against the Nazis, and withstanding the bombing campaign known as the blitz.
It comes on the anniversary of a rousing radio speech made by the man who lead the Free French forces which fought on : General Charles de Gaulle. Little-known at the time, he would later become President of France.
Today’s President, Emmanuel Macron has said “80 years ago today, on June 18, 1940, the United Kingdom gave Free France its first weapon, a BBC microphone.”
“L'Appel du 18 Juin” was made on the BBC’s French Service, from my old workplace, Bush House.
And occasionally I would pass a photograph of the General in action, on my way to a studio, to speak into another ancient-looking microphone.
De Gaulle said "whatever happens the flame of French resistance must not be extinguished and will not be extinguished”.
Occasionally I would give a shiver of pride when considering the famous events chronicled, or even created, in those venerable BBC studios. This was one of the most significant. De Gaulle’s speech put the fight back into French patriots - the day after their Prime Minister, Marshal Philippe Petain, had declared France defeated.
The story I’m going to tell you about, though, has less glory attached to it… And is to do with this magnificent tapestry, which now hangs in the BBC headquarters, Broadcasting House.
Isn’t it striking?
The scene is meant to depict the Greek god Adonis, talking to the birds in the trees. (Although the classical Greek myths are confusing on this - it might have been Aphrodite who spoke to the birds, with Adonis falling in love with Aphrodite).
Look closely at the figure - who could mistake that big nose - it must be General de Gaulle himself!
In fact this hanging was given to the BBC after the Second World War by the French Embassy in London, to commemorate his rallying cry. It was received gratefully. But then entirely forgotten.
Years later a BBC technician discovered it in some corner, covered in dust. And he thought it would make a lovely carpet for his living room. He swaggered towards the exit with the tapestry over his shoulder, until questioned by a commissionaire. The pilfering was discovered!
So, instead of accommodating a three piece suite and TV, the scene is now upright and proudly displayed.
And right now, it reminds us of the value of good leadership, eloquence and solidarity between peoples, too.