French Martyr: Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc) was born on the 6th January 1412, during the “100 Years War” between England and France, in Doremy in north-eastern France, to parents Jacques and Isabelle.

Joan had no formal education; she could not read or write, yet her upbringing instilled a love of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

Aged just thirteen, she claimed she heard voices from God; her mission in life was to save France by expelling their enemies … the English.

The events taking place in France; an internal was had broken out between two factions of the French Royal Family.  The Armagnac’s led by Count Bernard VII of Armagnac and Duke Charles of Orleans against Duke John-the-Fearless of Burgundy.  With them at war, the door was open for England to invade.

King Henry V of England claimed his right to the French throne and following their rejection, invaded France in August 1415 and went on to defeat Armagnac’s army at the “Battle of Agincourt” on the 25th October 1415.

Henry V conquered much of northern France in 1417, gaining support from Duke Philip III of Burgundy, for he agreed Henry V had a legal claim to the French throne.

In 1428 Joan of Arc met with Duke Charles after many rejections at his palace in Chinon.  She promised him, if he gave her an army she would turn round the war in his favour, and she would see him take his rightful place and crowned King of France at Reims.  There was much opposition to such an idea from loyal supporters of Charles, but he gave her a chance … one wonders what he saw in her.

In March of 1429, Joan of Arc led her army against the English as they were attacking Orlean’s.  She was dressed in white armour upon a white horse carrying a banner with the picture of “Our Saviour” holding the world with two angels at the sides on a white background covered with gold fleurs-de-lis.

Joan was to lead several assaults against the Anglo-Burgundian forces expelling them from their fortress, and forcing their retreat across the Loire River.  As her victories mounted, so did her fame, spread across France.

Joan kept her promise as Duke Charles was crowned King Charles VII of France in July 1429 at Reims.

In the spring of 1430, Joan led her forces against the Burgundian’s at Compiegne, where she was thrown from her horse, and captured.  She was brought before the English commander at the Castle of Bouvreuil at Rouen.  She was put on trial for witchcraft, heresy and dressing as a man.

joan-of-arc

Joan of Arc

On the 30th May aged 19, she was taken to Rouen’s market place, and burned at the stake.  At her execution according to witness statements, it is said she listened calmly to the words being read to her.  She wept as she forgave her accusers, asking that they pray for her.

With the English driven from Rouen in November of 1449 so the process of initiating an appeal case against Joan started as ordered by Charles VII to clear her name.  It was so ruled by Jean Brehal she had been illegally convicted by a corrupt court and finally described as a Martyr … She was a saint in her own right.

In 1920, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc)  having attained mythical stature was canonised by Pope Benedict XV.

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Maximilien de Robespierre

Maximilien de Rebespierre

Maximilien de Robespierre

Maximilien de Robespierre was born on the 6th May 1758, in Arras, France.  His mother died in 1764, and his distraught father just wandered off, leaving him to be raised by his grandparent, along with his brothers and sisters.  He learnt at an early age, what it meant to be poor, when attending school as a charity boy.  These early years, proved to be grounding for his life in later years.

Robespierre won a scholarship to the Louis le Grand College in Paris when he was eleven, and in 1775 was selected to deliver his address in Latin, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette visited the school.

Having graduated with a law degree, Robespierre practised law in Arras, and his sister Charlotte kept house for him.  He gained a reputation, for representing poor clients against the rich, in his eyes justice was available for all.

It wasn’t long before he took on a public role, where he could express his views; calling for political change in the French Monarchy.  He was elected to the Estates General of the French Legislature in 1788, aged 30.

He became the people’s voice, attacking the French Monarchy and calling for democratic reforms, and opposed the death penalty and slavery.

To promote his agenda, he left government and in April of 1789 was elected to the post of President of the Jacobin political faction.  In 1790 assisted in the creation of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen;” this was the foundation to the French Constitution.

In August of 1792, the people of Paris rose up against King Louis XVI, and Robespierre became head of the Paris delegation of the National Convention.

With his new found post, Robespierre encouraged the Parisians to rise up against the aristocracy, whilst he called for the execution of the King of France.

On the 27th July 1793, Robespierre was elected to the Committee of Public Safety, with virtual dictorial control over the government.

The Revolutionary government was responsible for the Reign of Terror, which would see some 300,000 enemies of the revolution arrested, and more than 17,000 executed by guillotine.  Political opponents to Robespierre found themselves sent to the guillotine.

Robespierre had the power over life and death, as he continued his reign of terror.  It wasn’t long before the Revolutionary government questioned his motives…  A coalition was formed in 1794, by those revolutionaries who once believed in him, who now question his moves, and those of his immediate followers.

On the 27th July 1794, Robespierre and his followers were arrested, he escaped, and the National Convention declared him an outlaw.  He was re-captured at the “Hotel de Ville” in Paris.

On the 28th July 1794, Maximilien de Robespierre a leading voice of the French Revolution, and instigator of the Reign of Terror was executed by guillotine.

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King Louis XVI of France

LouisXVI of France

King Louis XVI of France

Louis Auguste de France, was born on the 23rd August 1754 at the Palace of Versailles, to parents, Louis, Dauphin of France and Marie – Josephe of Saxony, daughter of Frederick Augustus II and King of Poland.

Louis life was to fall apart, as his older brother and heir apparent, Louis duc de Bourgogne, died in 1761.  This was followed up on the 20th December 1765, with the death of his father, and his mother on the 13th March 1767.

In May 1770 Louis Auguste de France, took the fourteen-year-old Habsburg Archduchess Maria Antonia (Marie Antoinette) as his bride, in an arranged marriage.  She being the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Teresa.

The couple were blessed with four children; Marie-Therese, Louis-Joseph, Louis-Charles and Sophie Beatrix, of which only Marie-Therese lived beyond childhood.

On the 10th May 1774, Louis Auguste became Louis XVI of France, with the death of his grandfather; Louis XV.

Louis was never expected to be king of France, he lacked self confidence and strength of character to rule a country.

When Louis came to the throne, the royal coffers were empty, the country was in debt, and his citizens showed little respect towards the monarchy.

In the early part of his reign, he supported American colonies desire for Independence, against France’s enemy; Great Britain.  Of course was has to be paid for, which meant taking out international loans.  As much as he was advised by his finance minister’s to raise or impose taxes upon his citizens, it was never passed.  Nobility and his Queen had forced him to dismiss such an idea.

By June of 1789, the Third Estate declared itself as the National Assembly, and aligned itself with the Bourgeoisie, and proposed to set out a new constitution.

Louis XVI resisted such changes, declaring the Assembly was void, and called out the army to restore order.  Public dissension grew, and a national guard was created to resist the use of the army against its people.

In July of 1789, Louis XVI had no choice, and had to acknowledge the National Assembly’s authority.

On the 14th July 1789, riots broke out across Paris, and the Bastille Prison was attacked in a show of defiance, towards the King.

Louis believed the Revolution would burn itself out.  Publicly he stood up, promising reforms he had no intention in keeping, and accepting his post as the constitutional monarch.  He resisted changes, on bad advice from hard line nobles and his Queen; Marie Antoinette.

On the 6th October 1789, Louis and his family were removed by force from Versailles Palace to Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Louis and his family attempted to escape from Paris for the eastern frontier in the June of 1791, under the cover of darkness, but the alarm was raised.  They were captured at Varennes and brought back to Paris as prisoners.

War broke out with Austria in the April of 1792, and Louis hoped for defeat, paving the way for the restoration of his authority.

Suspicions of treason, against France led to the suspension of the King’s powers, and on the 21st September 1792, Louis and his family were charged with treason.

King Louis XVI was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy with foreign powers in the January of 1793.  He was found guilty by the National Assembly and sentenced to death.

Execution of Louis XVI

Execution of King Louis XVI of France

On the 21st January 1793, King Louis XVI walked to the guillotine, and was executed in the Palace de la Revolution in Paris.

On the 13th July 1793, Louis-Charles was taken from his mother, and imprisoned, where he is believed to have died.

Some nine months later, Queen Marie Antoinette was convicted of treason by a tribunal, and executed by guillotine on the 16th October 1793.

Marie-Therese was released from prison in December of 1795, into the custody of her mother’s family in Austria.

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The French Revolution

French Revolution 2

The 18th century drew to a close, and France’s involvement in the “American War of Independence (1775-1783)” added to the extravagant spending by King Louis XVI (1754-1793) and his Queen; Marie Antoinette.  Yet he wasn’t totally to blame for the financial situation the country found itself in, for he inherited a debt left by King Louis XV.  The combination was pushing the country ever closer to bankruptcy.

The French Revolution started in 1789 and ended in 1799 with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, as France’s saviour and he proclaimed himself as Emperor of France in 1804.

French Revolution - Lady Liberty

French Revolution – Lady Liberty

French citizens redesigned the political landscape of their country, and some 17,000 people were known to have been executed, as this reign of terror swept across France.

France faced huge debts, and taxation of its people could not plug the hole in its economy.  New reforms put forward, were instantly blocked by the clergy and nobility, eager to hang on to their tax exemptions.

Poverty existed within the peasantry groups, who themselves, depended on good harvests for basic subsistence.  In 1787 and 1788 harvests had been poor, prices rose and fear of large scale famine was on the cards.

Even so, the peasants of the land were expected to pay feudal dues (The legal and social system in which people were given land and protection by a lord, in return for which they worked and fought for him) and obligations to the aristocracy.

King Louis XVI stepped in and called upon the Estates General (A medieval representative that had the power to deal with a financial crisis, consisting of; clergy – nobility – commoners) allowing the people to list their grievances.  The Estates General met in 1789, and claimed frustration and obstruction by the clergy and aristocrats.  This led to the formation of the National Assembly (The National Assembly claimed to legitimately represent the French population) and the drawing up of a constitution which limited Monarchy intervention.

In 1789, the citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille, whilst peasants and farmers attacked manors and estates belonging to their landlords, until they be freed from oppressive contracts.

In 1790 the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen” (The document granted due process in judicial matters and established sovereignty amongst the French citizens.  It made it clear, every person was seen as equal) was written with the collaboration of Maximilien de Robespierre, this was the foundation to the French Constitution.

The National Assembly may have taken the first steps towards creating a New France through the Constitution, yet rifts existed between radical and more moderate members.

This was to come to a head in 1791-92 as Louis XVI attempted an escape from Paris.

Louis, anxiously felt for the safety of his family, as they were nothing more than prisoners in Tuileries Palace, and believed fleeing was their only option.

On the nights of 20th and 21st June 1791, the royal party was arrested at Varennes on route to the border.  This attempt of escape compromised his position and that of the monarchy.

They returned to Paris, as prisoners, they were seen as enemies of the Revolution… Which left the question, how long would they keep Louis and Marie Antoinette alive?

This would cause the assembly to become divided.

The moderate Girondins, (Girondins were moderates in the National Convention who controlled the legislative assembly) stood up to be counted, and voted that France should retain a constitutional monarchy.  Whilst on the other hand were the Jacobins (Jacobins were a radical wing of representatives in the National Convention, led by Robespierre calling for democratic solutions to France’s issues) with Robespierre as their president, who wanted King Louis XVI, gone forever, he even called for his execution.

Neighbouring countries, dreaded the thought of France’s revolutionary tactics would spread to other lands.  They stepped in by issuing the “Declaration of Pillnitz,” calling that the French return Louis XVI, to his rightful place, on the throne.

It was seen as a declaration of hostile intent and the Girondin’s declared war on Austria and Prussia.

In January 1793, the National Convention abolished the monarchy and declared France a Republic.  Louis was tried for treason and executed.

France’s war with Austria and Prussia suffered as foreign armies entered deeper and deeper into France.

The Jaconin’s overthrew the Girondin’s and took control, conscripting people to the French Army.  It seemed France’s fortunes were ever changing.

Robespierre paranoia led to a reign of terror between 1793-1794, where some 17,000 counter revolutionaries were executed at the guillotine.

With foreign armies being pushed back across French borders.  It wasn’t long before the Revolutionary Government questioned Robespierre true motives… On the 27th July 1794, he was arrested and executed on the 28th at the guillotine.

Following the removal of Robespierre a period of governmental restructuring took place, leading up to a new Constitution of 1795.

The Committee of Public Safety’s conscription drive had enlarged their armies, as they defended France against invasion by Prussia and Austria.

A young Napoleon Bonaparte trail blazed his armies through Italy and Egypt, winning considerable fame for himself and wealth as he tore through Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

With political upheaval in France, Napoleon returned to Paris in 1799, putting down a coup against the Directory, and naming himself “First Consul” leader of France.  The Revolution was over, and France entered a fifteen-year period of military rule.

In May of 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte received the title: Emperor of France

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French Revolution: The Bastille

Bastille

The Bastille Prison

The Bastille was built between 1370-1383, standing some 100 feet in height and surrounded by an 80 foot wide moat.  At the time of its construction, its purpose was to serve as part of the walled defences of Paris, France.

In the 17th century it became a prison to house political agitators, high ranking officials and spies.  Most never saw the inside of a court; they would be imprisoned by order of the King.

With food shortages in 1789, and resentment by the people towards King Louis XVI, France was on track, heading towards a revolution.

In June, Louis approved the foundation of the National Assembly, and the call of the commoners, for a constitution.  Louis gave false hopes to his people, letting them believe he was prepared to compromise.  Then he dismissed Jacques Necker, the minister who called for reforms, and surrounded Paris with his troops.  In response, mobs rioted in Paris.

On the 7th July thirty-two Swiss mercenary soldiers arrived at the Bastille at the request of Bernard-Jordan de Launay, the military governor of the prison.  Then on the 12th July 250 barrels of gunpowder were delivered to the prison.

On the 13th July, revolutionaries armed with muskets stormed the Bastille’s towers.  On the 14th July, upwards of a thousand revolutionaries gathered around the Bastille.

Launay received two delegations that day, requesting he surrender the fortress and hand over the munitions.  Both requests were denied, yet he promised he would not fire upon the crowd.

Some three-hundred revolutionaries attempted to lower the drawbridge, and one hundred of these rioters were cut down in a hail of fire.  By mid-afternoon, deserters from the French army joined the rioters by removing five cannons and aiming them in the Bastille’s direction.

Launay and his men laid down their arms and were duly arrested.  They were taken to the “Hotel de Ville” the town hall.  Launay was dragged away and murdered by these revolutionaries, for they wanted justice.

The citizens of Paris, half expected a counterattack from the military as they built barricades and armed themselves.

The King could see a revolution was coming, and any military action against the Parisian people would only enhance the situation.  So on the 15th July 1789, military troops concentrated around Paris were withdrawn.

The capture of the Bastille spread across France like wild-fire, which led to minor uprisings in many towns and cities.

The new Revolutionary Government had the Bastille torn down, stone by stone, and the last stone was presented to the National Assembly on the 6th February 1790.

In 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and King Louis XVI of France, along with his wife; Queen Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine on the charge of treason.  King Louis died on the 21st January 1793 and Queen Marie-Antoinette on the 16th October.

The storming of the Bastille, on the 14th July 1789 is remembered each year in France.  These events led to the French Revolution, where many nobles lost their head at the guillotine.

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French Revolution: The Cause

French Revolution

The French Revolution

During the 18th century, French Monarchs had unlimited power, and as such declared themselves as the “Representative of God,” to the people.  They were engaged in a life of luxury and extravagance at the royal court of Versailles.

Louis XIV (1643-1715) of the Bourbon Dynasty, a most powerful and efficient monarch, who participated in many wars.  His successor Louis XV (1715-1774) took France to war against England, which brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy.

Louis XVI (1774-1793), lived a life of luxury and extravagance, when the country’s finance was reaching near bottom.  He may have been King, but his Queen; Marie Antoinette, played a major part in the affairs of the state.

The social condition of 18th century France, the French Society, consisted of three classes:  Clergy – Nobles – Common People.

The Clergy was of the First Estate, subdivided into two groups; higher and lower clergy.  The higher clergy, were held responsible for churches, monasteries and educational institutions, and paid no taxes to the monarchy.

The common people disliked the higher clergy, who lived a scandalous luxurious lifestyle, similar to the monarchy.  Whilst the lower clergy, were appointed to serve the people.

Nobility was the Second Estate of French Society, exempt from paying taxes to the monarchy.  Nobility consisted of two groups; count nobles and provincial nobles.

Court nobles, lived a life of luxury, and paid no interest, in the problems of its people, leaving provincial nobles, to listen to the problems of its citizen’s and resolve them.

France’s Third Estate, consisted of the country’s common people, its manual workers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen, and they paid taxes, keeping France afloat.

The lower clergies, provincial nobles and the ranks of the common people, joined together with the Bourgeoisie… so the French Revolution was born.

France’s economic condition was another cause for the outbreak of the “French Revolution.”  Louis XVI attempted to resolve the situation…

  • In 1774, Turgot was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.
  • In 1776, Necker was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.
  • In 1783, Callone was appointed, as France’s Finance Minister.

The finance ministers had their own ideas of sorting the country’s debt problem, from imposing taxes on all citizens of France, no matter what status they held to borrowing money to offset the debt.

For hundred’s of years, the members of France’s higher classes, had never paid taxes, and any suggestion was dismissed.

It was inevitable by 1789, the Monarchy had to go, and a Revolution would take place…  The French Revolution.

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Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise

Mary of Guise ( Queen Regent of Scotland)

Mary of Lorraine, better known as Mary of Guise, Queen to James V, and regent of Scotland was born at Bar on the 22nd November 1515, to parents Claude of Guise and Antoinette of Bourbon.

Mary of Guise married Louis II of Orleans, Duke of Longueville in 1534, and bore him a son Francis in 1535.  In the June of 1537, her husband, the Duke of Longueville died.

Mary was in her early twenties, and sought in marriage by James V, whose wife had died in the July and Henry VIII after the death of his beloved wife; Jane Seymour.

Mary accepted the offer of marriage from James V.  Mary an adopted daughter of France received papal dispensation for her upcoming marriage.  Her marriage to James V was celebrated first by Proxy in the May of 1538 in Paris, then at St.Andrews upon her arrival in Scotland.

She bore James two sons; James in the May of 1540 and Robert in the April of 1541, both sons died in the April of 1541.  In December of 1542; Mary, Queen of Scots was born and within a week James had died.

Cardinal David Breton, head of the French and Catholic party, and friend and ally to Mary, produced a will of the late king, which stated primacy in regency was assigned to Breton, himself.  John Knox made accusations of unfounded intimacy between Mary and Breton.  A similar report was revived in 1543, by Sir Ralph Sadler, English envoy.

Cardinal David Breton was arrested, and the regency fell to heir presumptive James, Earl of Arran, who hoped to secure the hand of the infant princess for his own son.

Mary of Guise was asked by the English commissioner, Sir Ralph Sadler to push her daughter, to further her contract of marriage with Edward VI.

A marriage treaty was signed on the 1st July at Greenwich, and Mary, Queen of Scots was barely a year old, was betrothed to Edward VI.  The terms stated that Mary would be placed in Henry’s custody when she was ten years old.  The Queen dowager and her daughter were under constant scrutiny at Linlithgow, and on the 23rd July 1543, escaped to the safety of Stirling Castle, aided by Cardinal Breton.

Following the Queen’s coronation in the September, Mary of Guise, played a prominent part in the affairs of the kingdom… Queen Regent of Scotland.

Mary of Guise kept in contact with her French kinsmen, for she sought a French alliance for her daughter.  This meant going out on a limb, against her advisers, who opposed such an idea.

The English invasion of 1547 was to enforce the English marriage, which gave Mary the reason for a French alliance.  In the June of 1548 a French fleet and 5,000 soldiers landed at Leith under the command of Andre de Montalembert, seigneur d’Esse, to booster Scottish forces, laying siege to English held Haddington.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

Mary Queen of Scots

The Scottish Parliament approved the marriage of Mary, the young Queen of Scotland with the Dauphin of France.  In the August of 1548, she set sail from Dumbarton to complete her education in the French court.

In the September of 1550, Mary of Guise visited France, seeking assurances from Henry II, over the confirmation of the dukedom and revenues of Chatelherault for the Earl of Arran, inducing him to resign the regency.

On route from France to Scotland, landed at Portsmouth due to heavy storms, and she visited Edward VI.  Arran refused to relinquish regency until the April of 1554, with assurances to his right of succession.

The new Regent faced an empty exchequer and opposition to Mary’s marriage to the dauphin.

The granting of high positions of state to Frenchmen caused outcry, fearing foreign domination.

Hostility from Arran and Archbishop Hamilton, forced her to undertake talks with the Lords of the Congregation, who favoured a protestant party.

Miners arrived from Lorraine, to dig for gold at Crawford Moor, to meet the high expenses of her government.

Mary of Guise appointed William Maitland of Lethington in 1554 as Secretary of State, and made a dangerous enemy of John Knox in the process.

On matters of religion, she tried to hold a balance between Catholic and Protestant factions, by allowing Presbyterian preachers to practice their religion, but no preaching in Edinburgh and Leith.

With the marriage of Francis II and her daughter Mary in 1558, she strengthened her position.  In 1559, she submitted to the religious policy of her relatives; the Guises.

She was forced to take up arms against the Protestants of Perth, who had been incited by John Knox to destroy the Charterhouse, the place where Scottish kings were buried.  The reformers were forced into submission on condition no foreign garrison was positioned in Perth.

Mary broke the agreement, by garrisoning Scottish troops, paid for by the French.

On the 21st October 1559, reformers who had been welcomed into Edinburgh, forcing Mary to flee to Dunbar, called for her to be deposed.

Mary, assisted by French forces, fortified Leith.  She had been betrayed, Chatelherault and his son defected, and William Maitland, her secretary of state, betrayed her plans to the Lords of the Congregation.

In October of 1559, Mary’s forces took on Leith, and attempted to seize an English convoy, was a failure leading to increased difficulties.  Mary entered Edinburgh, and conducted a bloody campaign in Fife.

In January of 1560, William Winter commanded an English fleet, which was sent to force Elbeuf’s French fleet, back to France.  Elbeuf had been commissioned by Francis II and Mary to seize Mary’s regency, on account of her failing health.

An English army led by Lord Grey, crossed the border into Scotland on the 29th March 1560, and granted Mary of Guise, the Regent asylum in Edinburgh Castle.

As Mary lay there, she felt her life slowly draining from her, she knew her end was close at hand.  She sent for the Lords of the Congregation, and pleaded they maintain a French Alliance.

On the 11th June 1560 Mary of Guise, also known as Mary of Lorraine, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots died.  She was buried in St.Peter’s Church within the nunnery at Reims, France, where her sister was the Abbess.

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