In the early modern era, la belle langue francais was the intellectual world's lingua franca, spoken during the Enlightenment by the aristocrats and thinkers of Europe in their courts from Paris to Berlin to Moscow. During the American Revolution, one of the greatest minds among the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, was dispatched as an envoy to Paris to coax the French into joining our side. Why? Because he was one of the few founding fathers who could speak fluent French.
But then, in the 19th Century, there came to the forefront what the French later called "La langue du Coca-Cola" (the language of Coca Cola; i.e. English). At first English seized from French the initiative in the world of commerce, perhaps because of the robust trade under way in the British Empire. Later, French was displaced in most other spheres.But, voila, just when it seemed as if Voltaire, Rabelais and Moliere would be swept aside by Dickens, Twain and Shakespeare, here rides the French investment bank Natixis to the rescue. C'est merveilleux, n'est-ce pas?