The US has “In God We Trust,” the French have “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” but the British don’t have anything. And they seem to like it that way. Recently the Times of London sponsored a motto-writing contest, the winner of which being, “No motto please, we’re British.” The story of the British and their potential motto provides another example of European nations trying to find their national identity in the midst of immigration and other societal changes. The New York Times article covering this story, however, did not involve many grave matters. It ends with the following exchange from the House of Lords that sums up the British better than any motto could:

After Lord Hunt’s assurances that the government had no plans for a motto and his colleagues’ insistence on discussing one anyway, Lord Conwy had a thought. Why, he asked, could they not just use the French “Dieu et mon droit,” which means “God and my right?”

Lord Hunt replied: “As the noble lord will know, that represents the divine right of kings. While it is of course a well-known phrase, one would need to reflect on whether that would be entirely relevant to a motto that we are not going to have.”

Articles by Nathaniel Peters

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