Princess Royal unveils centenary plaque at French lycée
London, 22 May 2015
On Thursday 21 May, HRH The Princess Royal unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington, to launch the school’s centenary year.
The Princess Royal, who as a young girl was taught French at Buckingham Palace by a teacher from the Lycée, was greeted at the Lycée by the French Ambassador to the UK, Sylvie Bermann, the Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Councillor Robert Freeman, the Lycée’s Head, Olivier Rauch, and the Director of the Agency for French Education Abroad, Hélène Farnaud-Defromont.
Guests at the reception included Edward Leigh MP, a former student at the Lycée, and the renowned French composer Michel Legrand.
During the visit, The Princess Royal viewed an exhibition charting the 100-year history of the school, and met with past and present staff and students. She also listened to a performance of the French and British national anthems, as well as a selection of compositions commissioned to celebrate the school’s centenary, played by the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle orchestra.
Praising the Lycée’s uniqueness, the French Ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann said: “We’ve come together today to celebrate 100 years of the Lycée Charles de Gaulle, and also its development, its ability to adapt and transform itself when confronted by the challenges history has thrown at it.”
Hélène Farnaud-Defromont, the Director of the Agency for French Education Abroad, praised the high academic achievements of the Lycée and spoke about the important position it occupies within the international network of French schools.
After unveiling a commemorative plaque engraved in honour of her visit, The Princess Royal was presented with a book on the history of the Lycée and a posy of flowers.
The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle de Londres is celebrating its centenary with a series of cultural and festive events taking place in May and June 2015 at its South Kensington site, involving current pupils, members of staff and the school’s Old Students’ Association. The programme of events includes an exhibition charting the Lycée’s history, concerts and theatre performances.
The Lycée’s main South Kensington site will be open to the public on Friday 22 May, from 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. The afternoon will be an opportunity for students past and present to meet and share their experiences and memories. The day will end with a special dinner organized by the Old Students’ Association.
The Old Students’ Association is also marking the year with the publication of a special book commemorating the history of the school, entitled Le Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle de Londres 1915 – 2015. The book will be on sale throughout this centenary year.
More information about the programme of centenary events is available on the Lycée’s website:
History of the Lycée
The first schools (one for boys and one for girls) were founded in 1915 near Victoria station and consisted of no more than 120 pupils. The schools were set up principally to educate the children of French and Belgian refugees during the First World War and they closed in 1919.
In 1920 the Lycée reopened in the district of South Kensington, opposite the Victoria and Albert Museum, and then from 1936 at the present site.
During the Second World War the Lycée buildings became the headquarters of the Free French air force and all the pupils were evacuated to Cumberland. After the war there was a rapid increase in the number of pupils enrolled at the school: in 1948 the Lycée had 450 pupils, in 1973 there were 2,200 and in 2015 there are more than 4,000. In 1952 the British section was opened with the principal aim of recruiting Francophile British pupils.
In 1980 the school was officially named the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle in tribute to the French statesman.
The Lycée today
The Lycée provides pupils living in London with an education in accordance with the French national curriculum, with a special emphasis on English. The main South Kensington site consists of a primary school, a middle school and a high school with over 3,000 pupils. To meet the educational needs in London of an ever-growing French community, three other primary schools were opened: Wix in 1993, André Malraux in 1997 and Marie d’Orliac in 2008.
The Lycée is administered by the Headteacher (Olivier Rauch, since September 2012) and is under the direct control of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE, whose director is Hélène Farnaud-Defromont), which has its headquarters in Paris. The school offers a British section (GCSE, IGCSE and A-levels) and a French section (French baccalaureate).
Today there are more than 4,000 pupils, 83% of whom have French nationality (16% of them hold dual French and British nationality); 5% are British nationals and 12% are one of 48 other nationalities. We are a modern and international school which is open to the world.
Photo credits: Grégoire Bernardi