Friday, May 5, 2023

Of Statues, Kings, and Other Things

Equestrian statue of Henry IV on the Pont Neuf
Paris, France

I arrived at the topic for today's post after following a rather twisting and torturous route. It all started with me watching a brief documentary on the death of Louis VIV, also known as Le Roi Soleil, or (for you Anglophones) The Sun King.

I cannot, for the life of me, remember where I found the reference to the video, nor can I remember if it was on YouTube or one of the many other places where one can peruse videos. I looked and came up short. But in my travels I read other things, things which made me think, things which made me wonder. (Wondering is not the same as thinking, at least not to my way of, pardon me, thinking.) (Ah, this just in - I found it, or rather I found the actual documentary of which I apparently only saw clips from. It is indeed on YouTube and you can watch it here. Be forewarned, it's about 52 minutes long. But well worth your time if you are interested in French history or attractive curator attachés of Versailles. Video has both. Don't ask ...)

Anyhoo. After watching that, I was struck by the similarities between an event which occurred during the French Revolution and certain things happening in our own time, in our own country. (US of A for our non-US correspondents of whom we have a few.)

In a suburb of Paris, Saint-Denis to be precise, there is a basilica, the Basilica of Saint-Denis to be precise (again). Said place once (and does again, I think) house the mortal remains of the Kings of France, from the 10th Century to Louis XVIII. The latter being the King who had to flee Paris upon the return of the Corsican Ogre, one Napoléon Bonaparte. He also returned to Paris after the second abdication of the aforementioned Bonaparte. Certain wags liked to say (at the time) that Louis returned to his throne in the baggage train of Wellington's army.

The Pedia of Wiki has this to say of the basilica -

The basilica became a place of pilgrimage and a necropolis containing the tombs of the Kings of France, including nearly every king from the 10th century to Louis XVIII in the 19th century. Henry IV of France came to Saint-Denis to formally renounce his Protestant faith and become a Catholic. The Queens of France were crowned at Saint-Denis, and the royal regalia, including the sword used for crowning the kings and the royal sceptre, were kept at Saint-Denis between coronations. (Source)

Now if you will recall, the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy (for a number of years, the permanent dumping of the monarchy took place later on in French history, some years after the revolution), so at some point somebody remembered that there were a bunch of kings interred at Saint-Denis.

"Hey, let's go dig those guys up!"

"Oui, certainement, let us go and despoil this monument to the hated monarchy!"

So they did, which I only learned of after watching the aforementioned documentary (or parts thereof). One of the kings disinterred, then apparently dumped with his predecessors in a mass grave, was Louis XIV. After that was mentioned, I learned that when a French king died his heart and intestines were removed. Apparently the heart of Louis XIV was spirited away from the revolutionaries and was eventually returned to Saint-Denis, where it remains to this day. (Why the separation of body parts occurred I am, as yet, unclear on.)

Whilst chasing the thread of French kings I came across that fellow whose statue graces the Pont Neuf, in Paris. Henry IV, or Henri le Grand as some Frenchmen remember him (Henry the Great, en anglais). A picture of that statue gracing the opening of this post.

Now that's not the original statue, it's a replacement statue as the original was torn down and destroyed during ...

Yep, the French Revolution.

The current statue was put up in 1818 (no doubt after the King was assured that that meanie Bonaparte was exiled to an island so far away that not even the great Napoléon could return to France from there). The statue was made using the original cast. Ironically, a statue of Napoléon was melted down to contribute bronze to the replacement statue.

Now France is kind of famous for being a Catholic country, well, perhaps was famous would be more accurate. But I digress.

Henry IV was the first French king to come from the House of Bourbon, no, not the stuff one drinks, it's actually a family name. The Bourbons were also the last monarchs of France, only interrupted in their long reign by the upstart House of Bonaparte. Napoléon I (the Napoléon), Napoléon II ("reigned" briefly in 1815 after his father abdicated for the second time, never sat on the throne), and Napoléon III, a nephew of the Napoléon.

Apparently Henry was also a closet Protestant. His mother was fiercely Protestant and, as my own experience says, that makes the son a Protestant as well. France had been wracked by civil war via the conflict between Catholics and Protestants during Henry's reign. He ended that via the Edict of Nantes, which granted a certain amount of tolerance to the French Protestants, the Huguenots. Which apparently didn't stick, as a number of famous German soldiers were Huguenots, including Adolf Galland, the last commander of the German fighter arm in WWII. If that edict had actually worked, who knows, Dolfo Galland might have been flying for France in 1940 and not the Germans!

The Pedia of Wiki on Henry ending those pesky religious civil wars - 

Henry IV successfully ended the civil wars. He and his ministers pacified Catholic leaders using bribes of about 7 million écus, which was more than France's revenue per annum. Huguenot leaders were placated by the Edict of Nantes, which had four separate documents. The articles laid down the tolerance which would be accorded to the Huguenots including the exact places where worship may or may not take place, three Protestant universities were recognized, and synods of the church would be allowed. The king also issued two personal documents (called brevets) which recognized the Protestant establishment. The Edict of Nantes signed religious tolerance into law, and the brevets were an act of benevolence that created a Protestant state within France. (Source)

Bribing church leaders? That works?

Plus ça change, plus ç'est le même chose. We evolve, but we don't really change ...

So tearing down statues, desecrating things held sacred, sound familiar?

I despise fanatics of any stripe.

But the bottom line on all this? History does indeed rhyme.

Today is a day of travel for me, I do not intend to write anything for Saturday, nor Sunday in all likelihood. For I shall be snug in the bosom of my family and will be content to play with grandkids and sleep most of the day. It is, after all, a long drive from Little Rhody to Maryland and I'm not getting any younger.

So Beans, Tuna, have at it.

As for Monday, you have juvat. As for the rest of next week? I don't know yet.

À la prochaine mes amis.¹

¹ Until next time my friends.


  1. Safe and easy travels to you, Sarge. Grandchildren are an especial blessing. It can be fun to watch your progeny parenting. In my case the Mother of my Grandchildren is especially wonderful to observe " in process";girl's got a sense of humor. It's also nice to see the confidence that comes with subsequent children.
    Vaya con Dios.
    Boat Guy

    1. Thanks, BG. Sean and anchor detail are moving into place, we should be pulling back from the pier any minute now.

  2. Safe travels Sarge and enjoy the reunion time. As to repeating history how many times have new rulers obliterated the past?

    1. Only to have their monuments torn down in time ...

      Thanks Nylon12!

  3. Unfortunately for France, it had historical baggage - in this case the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre (which was a motivating factor for the Edict Nantes, I guess) - which had already driven out many French Protestants to other Protestant countries or countries that wanted Western knowledge. Apparently Louis XIV also undid that in the Edict of Fountainebleau (1685), which again sent many French Protestants away and caused a skill and brain drain.

    Barbarians only destroy. They never create.

    Enjoy your time away. I promise, promise, promise that we will not burn the place down (quietly puts matches back into box....).

  4. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Bon chance mon ami.

    However, RI to MD being a long trip? ~450 miles by yon moogly Googly thingy...why, that's a trip from Orange (pronounced Ernge) to Del Rio in the Republic of Texas! You've just hit the halfway mark on crossing the Lone Star State at that point!

    Reminds me of an old pun my father used to tell. A kibbutzim was entertaining his Texas rancher friend in Israel. "See that rock? That's one corner of my kibbutz, see that tree? That's another, and that road over there is the other boundary" The rancher replied "why tarnation, that's a tiny spread! My Texas ranch is so big, I get in my truck and drive all day to get to the other end of it!" The kibbutzim replied "I had a car like that once!"

    1. 412, roundabout, but at my age, it feels long.

  5. One of the great quotes of all time comes from Henri IV. On being offered the crown under the condition that he convert to Catholicism, he is said to have replied "Paris is worth a Mass."

  6. Hope it's an easy drive. Yeah, at least the Church got some money for their time. The Protestors settled for an autograph. :D Whatever the deal was, I reckon it's better not to fight over "dipping or splashing" and other interpretive issues. Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. We all eventually pull stakes and God will do the sorting. But don't forget Luke 22:36 and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. That's for those that refuse to live peaceably with us, I reckon...

  7. Replies
    1. Trip was okay, rough in a couple of spots, but a lovely day overall.

  8. "But well worth your time if you are interested in French history or attractive curator attachés of Versailles. Video has both. Don't ask .."

    That's one heck of a tease to get people to watch the video.

    Safe travels. Enjoy your trip. As someone mentioned above, we won't burn the place down, I'll add that we'll have it policed up (I had to explain that term to people at work) before you get back.

    Now, off to goggle the attr...ah...peruse French history.

  9. An innocent question: is there an American translation for Swinging the Lead? LOL

  10. Bribing church leaders? I'm sure it is still happening today, how do you think annulments in the Catholic Church happen? Sure, there are legitimate ones, but I'm sure there are well financed ones too.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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