The badge denoting a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the star worn by Knights of the Order of the Bath and other famous British medals are slated to be produced in France next year — a decision that has brought criticism from Britons who don’t want their country’s highest honors made on foreign soil.
In an online poll set up by The Telegraph to ask readers about the French-made military and civilian medals, the majority — 84 percent of some 1,300 votes — say it’s an outrage.
The story was first reported by The Times, which noted that “the Queen will soon be pinning medals that have been made in France on the chests of military heroes, distinguished diplomats and deserving citizens.”
French company Arthus Bertrand, which already produces medals for some of France’s top honors, received a contract to make 20 medals for the U.K. government after a bidding process that, as required by European Union rules, doesn’t allow discrimination against foreign suppliers.
The French company was selected along with several British firms. In response to the news, a representative said that Arthus Bertrand is proud to win the contract and is awaiting its first order.
Reaction to the unprecedented decision has been particularly strong among members of the Conservative Party, including Minister of Parliament Bob Stewart, a holder of the Distinguished Service Order.
“Can you imagine the French allowing the Légion d’honneur to be made in Germany?” says Stewart, as quoted by The Daily Mail. “When this country awards medals to its soldiers, sailors, airmen and citizens they should be made in the UK.”
The decision is even resonating across the English Channel, inside Britain’s traditional rival and erstwhile enemy. A story about the new contract on the France TV Info site starts with the sentence, “Admiral Nelson must be turning in his grave.”