We are 100 years old!

In 2010, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni (The French Institute in the UK) is celebrating its centenary with a series of special events.

Home Footnotes History of the Institut français
Sunday 26th of June 2022

Meeting of minds

A series of encounters, ‘les dialogues du centenaire’, bring together well known British and French authors and film directors to discuss a wide range of challenging topics.

Cinéma, an act of love

Ciné lumière will screen a special series of films to mark the Institute's 100th birthday. Read more

Your digital Institute

In May, Culturethèque has been launched, giving public UK-wide access to new cultural and educational resources.
Read more

Visit Culturethèque

History of the Institut français

The adventure of the Institut français began thanks to the determination of a young 19-year-old Frenchwoman: Marie d’Orliac. With the immediate support of British personalities such as Lord and Lady Askwith, Mr and Mrs Emile Mond, and French public figures including the French Ambassador Paul Cambon, d’Orliac created the Université des Lettres françaises in 1910. From the very start, the new institution set out to promote the best of French culture, encourage exchanges and teach the French language. Three years later, the institution was integrated with the University of Lille under the name «Institut français du Royaume-Uni».



During the First World War, faced with an infl ux of French and Belgian refugees, the Institut français opened its classes to French-speaking pupils. This was the beginning of the Lycée français, which French and British companies helped to finance.

Under the patronage of the French President and members of the British Royal Family, the years that followed were culturally very active. Institut directors were alternately French and British: André Maurois, André Citroën, TS Eliot, Katherine Mansfi eld... The address of the Institut changed several times, but soon its premises were too small and a new building was designed containing classrooms (Lycée français), a library, theatre, ballroom and café. The amazing Art Deco building that now houses the Institut français was inaugurated in 1939.

The Second World War put a brutal stop to these efforts. The Lycée, like all other schools in London, was evacuated. Denis Saurat, the then director of the Institut français, joined General De Gaulle. The Institut was made available to the Free French Forces, as was Saurat’s knowledge of England. English language lessons were given to French people who had fl ed France. Cultural activities continued under the leadership of Denis Saurat, who prided himself in keeping the Institut français open every day throughout the war. The Institut survived thanks to the generosity of the British and their government, the French in London, and some Francophile benefactors.

After the war, the Institut français was permanently attached to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Wellknown personalities visited regularly: Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud, Jean Renoir, Abel Gance, Darius Milhaud, Valéry Larbaud...The Institut and the Lycée were defifi nitively separated in 1963, and the teaching of French as a foreign language became an important activity at the Institut. From then on, the building at 14 Cromwell Place was dedicated to French language courses. I

In 1995, the library was completely renovated and made fully accessible to the public. The cinema, which had put on memorable screenings during its time as a ciné-club, now became a fully-flfl edged cinema, the Ciné lumière, inaugurated by Catherine Deneuve in 1998, and again in 2009, after it had been renovated and equipped with a digital projector.


History, Building Bridges

A look at the history of relations between France and the UK. Read more

Musique en Fanfare

Programme of concerts and live events culminating with the Exhibition Road Music Day in June.

Le Français à l'honneur

We will celebrate the French language with our Francophone and educational partners. Read more

Arts Calling

In the fields of visual & performing arts, the centenary will extend far beyond the Institut.