Monday, December 13, 2010

Joyeux anniversaire, Henri IV!

Aujourd’hui, le 13 décembre, nous fêtons l’anniversaire d’Henri IV, le roi pacificateur et l’un des personnages les plus controversés de l’histoire de la France, et voilà pourquoi:
- Son avènement a apporté un changement de dynastie (Valois ->Bourbon), après 261 ans
- Né huguenot, il s’est illustré pendant les guerres de religion en tant que chef de son parti
- Pour accéder au trône de la France il a été obligé de se convertir au catholicisme
- Par l’édit de Nantes il a mis fin à plusieurs décennies de combats entre les protestants et les catholiques
- C’est le deuxième roi français qui meurt assassiné

Courte chronologie des moments marquants de sa vie:

1533, 13 décembre, naissance de Henri de Navarre à Pau (ses parents - Antoine de Bourbon, prince de sang, et Jeanne d’Albret, reine de Navarre)
1572, 18 août, mariage avec Marguerite de Valois, fille d'Henri II et Catherine de Médicis, pour tenter une réconciliation entre protestants et catholiques, geste qui a généré le massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy (août 1572)
1584, Henri de Navarre devient l’héritier de la couronne de France après la mort du duc d’Anjou, le frère du roi
1588, après la journée des Barricades, le roi de France Henri III se rallie à Henri de Navarre, chef du parti protestant, pour assiéger Paris et rétablir la paix dans le royaume
1593, après la mort d’Henri III (août 1589), Henri de Navarre abjure solennellement la confession protestante et se convertit au catholicisme pour faire valoir ses droits sur la couronne. Il est sacré à Chartres le 27 février 1594 sous le nom d'Henri IV.
1595, victoire à la Fontaine-Française, qui oppose le roi aux troupes de la Ligue et finalement apporte le démantèlement de la Ligue. Henri IV est reconnu par le Pape.
1598, signature de l’Edit de Nantes, qui offre aux huguenots la liberté de conscience, l’égalité civile et des garanties en matière de droits et qui marque la fin des guerres de religion. L'édit ne sera jamais entièrement respecté et finalement révoqué en 1685 par Louis XIV.
1599, en absence d'héritier, Henri IV répudie Margot et épouse en 1600 Marie de Médicis avec laquelle il aura six enfants, dont le futur Louis XIII.
1601, 27 septembre, naissance de son fils et successeur Louis XIII à Fontainebleau
1610, 14 mai, Henri IV est assassiné par un catholique fanatisé (François Ravaillac) dans la rue de Ferronnerie à Paris. Marie de Médicis va assurer la régence du royaume pendant la minorité de Louis XIII.
Après sa mort brutale, Henri IV devient une légende. Son règne est encore considéré comme l’âge d’or de la monarchie française. Ses erreurs oubliées, il ne reste que l’image d’un bon roi, brave, pacificateur, apprécié par ses sujets, malgré ses hésitations confessionnelles.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Birth date of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland

On this day in history, 8th December 1542, Mary of Guise gave birth to the future Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, who lost her father, James V of Scotland, only a few days later and was coronated at a very early age, as Queen of Scotland.
I am not going to tell her story here, which is long but fascinating. On this occasion I would like to remind the world of her importance, even 5 centuries after her death.
Mary of Scotland is probably the best image of a woman definitely destined to be a queen. She was already a queen in her infancy, she claimed to be queen of England after the death of Mary I in 1558 (as granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII) and she became queen of France in 1559, after her first husband François II ascended to the throne.
Having read a lot of material about her, I never cease to wonder how tragic and troubled her fate was. Playing the role of queen is not as easy as it seems. You have to choose between acting like a strong, level-headed monarch and acting as a woman craving for love. Mary Stuart wanted to do both but we all agree she failed, because it was not possible, especially in such a violent and wild century as the 16th. Unlike her cousin Elisabeth I, queen of England, Mary was prone to making choices rather with her heart than with her mind and consequently made a lot of mistakes that eventually led to her destruction.
Her intelligence, passion, spirituality and generosity were no secret to the world and many acknowledged her as one of the most emancipated minds of that time. Upon her return to Scotland some would profit from her weaknesses and make her a prisoner of her own fate. Executed on 8 February 1587, after a long imprisonment in England, she is considered a martyr by the Catholic Church. Her only son, James, inherited both kingdoms: Scotland and England, thus forever uniting the two nations drifted apart for centuries before that.

Recommended biographies:
Friedrich Schiller "Mary Stuart"
Stefan Zweig "Marie Stuart"
Alison Weir "Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley"
John Guy "Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart"

Monday, December 6, 2010

6 décembre, anniversaire du rattachement de la Bretagne à la France

1490. Après des siècles de conflits entre la France et la Bretagne, l’héritière du duché de Bretagne (de son père François II), Anne de Bretagne choisit tout d’abord d’épouser Maximilien de Habsbourg, le futur empereur d’Allemagne, pour préserver l’indépendance de son pays (depuis 1465 son père n’avait cessé de guerroyer contre Louis XI s’allliant avec ses ennemis). Le mariage par procuration n’a jamais été consommé. Charles VIII, le jeune roi de France, était lui même fiancé depuis son enfance à Marguerite d’Autriche, la fille de Maximilien.


La guerre contre la France était perdue en 1490 pour la Bretagne, et la petite reine attendait les secours de son mari. Celui-ci, pris ailleurs dans un conflit avec les Turcs, ne réagit pas. Les nobles de Bretagne supplient alors la jeune fille de mettre fin aux souffrances de son peuple et épouser le vainqueur, le roi de France. Au bout de quelques mois, elle consentit à un traité de paix dont sa main était l’enjeu. Après des fiançailles difficiles, causées par l’annulation de son mariage par procuration avec Maximilien ainsi que par la rupture d’engagement entre Charles et Marguerite d’Autriche, le mariage a finalement eu lieu le matin de 6 décembre 1491 à Langeais. Plusieurs témoins ont été présents, notamment: le duc Louis d'Orléans, le duc de Bourbon, les comtes d'Angoulême, de Foix et de Vendôme, le prince d'Orange, le chancelier Philippe de Montauban, le sire de Coëtquen.

A propos de cet événement, voici ci-dessous un extrait du livre de Simone Bertière "Les Reines de France aux temps de Valois", volume 1 "Le beau XVIe siècle":

"Pour la célébration du mariage on avait choisi une forteresse. Sur le site de Langeais, qui occupe un entablement rocheux dominant la rive gauche de la Loire, Louis XI avait fait bâtir un château fort inexpugnable. De quoi décourager Maximilien, pour le cas où il aurait tenté de faire enlever son ex-épouse (...) Les futurs conjoints se rendirent à Langeais séparément. Anne arriva la première. Charles la rejoignit plus discrètement encore, dans la nuit du 5 au 6 décembre par voie fluviale, accompagné d’une suite réduite. Et la Loire fut aussitôt interdite à tout trafic. La cérémonie eut lieu aussitôt, à l’aube du 6 décembre, en présence de quelques grands seigneurs triés sur le volet. (...)
Les termes en avaient été minutieusement pesés par les juristes français. Il s’agissait d’arrimer solidement la Bretagne à la France. La jeune femme conservait son titre ducal, mais abandonnait au roi l’administration de ses territoires. Dans un esprit d’apparente égalité, les deux époux se faisaient donation réciproque de tous leurs droits sur la province en cause, mais un jeu de clauses complexes en assurait, à la génération suivante, le rattachement à la France. On avait envisagé plusieurs cas. Si Anne mourait la première en laissant des enfants, ceux-ci héritaient naturellement d’elle. Dans le cas contraire, la Bretagne appartiendrait à Charles VIII. Si Charles mourait le premier, (...) pour empêcher sa veuve de reprendre la Bretagne et de l’apporter en dot à un nouveau mari, une clause très insolite stipulait qu’elle serait tenue d’épouser son successeur sur le trône de France. (...) Telle avait été la solution trouvée pour concilier les droits théoriques d’Anne sur sa province natale avec les intérêts français. (...)
Elle n’avait pas encore quinze ans, le roi en avait vingt et un. (...) Dès le 18 décembre, Charles, rassuré, la présente à sa bonne ville de Tours, qui lui fait un accueil chaleureux. Et en février, il la conduit à Paris pour être non seulement couronnée dans l’abbatiale de Saint-Denis, mais sacrée: c’est un honneur."

L’histoire a été dure avec ses protagonistes. Charles et Anne ont pris des engagements solennels avant leur mariage qu’il ont violés. Leurs malheurs ultérieurs sont ainsi expliquables (la perte de tous leurs enfants en bas âge et la mort prémature de Charles). On connait la suite de leur destin, en 1499 Anne épouse le cousin et le successeur de Charles, Louis XII. Le second contrat de mariage est quand même plus favorable à Anne, conservant ainsi l’autonomie, les privilèges et les institutions de sa province.

La scène du célèbre mariage symbolique entre la Bretagne et la France qui a eu lieu le 6 décembre 1491 est reproduite en personnages de cire dans une des grandes salles du château de Langeais.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

EU citizens becoming slaves of endless refinancing

At the end of November the Irish government finally accepted the significant emergency bail-out granted by the EU and the IMF. The situation is quite similar to Greece’s in May. While there was actually some helpful action immediately felt by investors, this time things are more complicated. The panic gets hold of other countries in line and spreading as a result of the domino effect over Spain, Portugal and even Italy.

The Europe’s bail-out potential is obviously not big enough to sustain every EU country’s financial problems. That’s what I assumed in the first place. Well, it used to be a good idea, as long as Greece was perceived as a singular case of desperation, as an exception. The risk of contagion was yet invisible in May. Now the biggest European economies are threatened by disaster.

Until recently, Europe’s rescue plan was intended to offer cash to help economies get over some temporary difficulties. But as more countries face the same problem, we understand that multinational banks intervention will only cause currencies failure and a transfer of wealth towards the creditor pyramid. Soon enough the multinational banks will be able to control the finances of the countries they "saved".

In a desperate attempt to save local banks, uninspired governments decided to swallow the banks bad loans and to endanger their own creditworthiness. Big mistake. It’s like swallowing something you cannot actually digest, because you don’t have a stomach for that.

Ireland and Greece are clearly not able to face an austerity budget right now and can hardly raise enough taxes to finance the huge borrowing. Portugal is also on the edge of soliciting a bail-out while Spain is looked upon as another potential victim, although its situation is less troubled.

Now, common citizens from all the EU countries are forced to accept the fact that all their life savings are used to bail out neighboring bankrupt economies. Yes, that’s the spirit of helping a neighbor in need… but can we afford doing this again and again, every 3 months? Or isn’t this just a big secret machinery put in place to create dependencies and a new kind of slavery?

I’ve been asking myself the same question for quite a while: what will happen to our dearest Euro? It seems like the brilliant minds who created the Euro phenomenon were not 100% committed. They established a monetary union without establishing a fiscal union. And now it’s kind of late to slow down, go back a few years and set fixed exchange rates to prevent speculation against national European currencies.

I hate to acknowledge that we all depend on Germany and the European Central Bank to sustain a future that no longer exists. They provide us with sources of money but they also turn us into slaves paying back debts which are not necessarily ours. The spirit of union, is it worth?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Friends" – an inspiration for "Two & a half men"

Just finished watching the American TV series "Two and a half men". It took me a while… What can I say? Many people adore it and think highly of it, as being one of the best. But, still "Friends" is my favorite, in terms of quality, jokes, actors and why not, atmosphere.

During my watching the show I noticed some elements that were previously used in "Friends". No offence to "Two and a half men" fans, but obviously "Friends" was there before so… I am not here to judge, but to reveal some facts. Feel free to join the discussion and share your opinion on the subject.

Plot and Characters
1) In "Friends" we have 3 young men and 3 young women of about the same age gathered around two brothers – Monica and Ross, in "Two and a half men" we have a group of characters gathered around two brothers – Charlie and Alan.

2) Monica and Ross do not miss the opportunity to irritate each other; Charlie and Alan do the same.

3) Alan is a kind of Ross, they are both divorced and their wives left them because they had some self-identity issues; in fact Ross’ wife turned to be really gay while Judith just went through a period of rediscovering herself. Both have a son from their previous marriage, but Jake plays a more important role than Ben does. Both fancy themselves as being "doctors", Ross in his position of having a Ph.D. and Alan is his position as a chiropractor, which is almost a doctor in his assumption.

4) Ross & Monica Geller’s mother is quite indifferent to anything around her and very superficial, displaying a natural gift for criticizing everyone, and prefers Ross to Monica. Alan and Charlie’s mother reminds me of her; she is quite self-centered and indifferent to her children as well, never really cares, does not spare her children from any possible critical remark and visibly prefers Alan to Charlie.

5) Sometimes, Alan is a version of Chandler, in many ways; his efforts to get the attention of women are almost never successful.

6) Charlie is another version of Joey, but smarter and more sophisticated. They would both eventually end up as bachelors.

7) However, there are times when Alan resembles Monica, they are both extremely organized, economic, they categorize everything (Alan - the flyers he gets in his mailbox, Monica – the photos, CDs, etc.) and they both really enjoy living in an idealistic world of tidiness and symmetry.

8) Jake is a kind of Joey when it comes to food. Junk food is their passion, the biggest necessity but also pleasure. They are both narrow-minded, displaying no attraction for books or knowledge.

Similar Situations
1) The sequence of Charlie and Mia’s wedding in Vegas is quite similar to Monica & Chandler’s plan of secretly marrying in Vegas, which doesn’t happen after all for either of the couples. Instead, it is Ross and Rachael, as well as Alan and Candy who spontaneously decide to get married surprising everyone.

2) Monica and Chandler looking for a sperm donor, and Mia asking Charlie to donate his sperm.

3) In season 5 Jake talks to his girlfriend over the phone for hours and none of them has the guts to hang up. It is quite similar to the episode where Ross is constantly over the phone with his Chinese girlfriend Julie in season 2. The same phrase is used in both scenarios: "you hang up, no you hang up, ok, 1, 2, 3, you didn’t hang up either!"

4) In season 5, episode 16, Alan takes the role of his mother wedding planner as seriously as Monica does when organizing Phoebe’s wedding (season 10). The way Alan rushes the groom to finish his speech, makes me instantly think of Monica, how she wouldn’t even let Mike pee because the seconds were counted in her schedule.

5) In season 6 episode 1 Charlie finds out that condoms are not 100% safe, reminding me seriously of Ross finding out exactly the same thing when he got Rachel pregnant. Similar reactions and phrases are used:
Charlie: "They should put it in big letters right on the reservoir tip!"; Ross: "They should put it on the box!"

6) When Alan turns 40 his girlfriend takes him to a secret party at the restaurant but the guests are not there, he says: "My family is a thoughtless selfless bunch of butlives", and they all show up that very moment, reminds me of Monica at her bachelor party saying to Rachael and Phoebe: "The only people I want to see is here", followed by the appearance of the hidden guests.

7) When Charlie tells his girlfriend Chelsea "I love you" in season 6 she replies: "Thank you" just like Emily replied to Ross in the 4th season after he confessed his feelings towards her. Lousy imitation!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growing old is a good thing

Growing old is not necessarily a bad thing. You become wiser, more experienced, patient, confident and perceptible. But you also become more sensitive to good memories and nostalgic about your past. I assume the greatest disadvantage of growing older is not having the time or the mood to go crazy like you used to, and you constantly feel like losing your freedom. And of course, age progresses along with the number of responsibilities..., which can be overwhelming.

The solution to the nevrotic nostalgia is trying to make some unaccomplished forgotten dreams come true. You can keep the spirit alive by proving yourself to be able to do anything, no matter how difficult it may seem at a first glance. Take the challenge and change your life for the better, or at least try. Believe me, it is worth trying; because the age is likely to kill your enthusiasm forever.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Château of Langeais – a truly medieval residence

The château of Langeais is quite different from everything I have seen by now (maybe just a bit similar to Vincennes) and relies on a very long history. Its first stone was laid around the year 1000 by the count of Anjou, Foulque Nerra. Visitors can still admire a fragment of the outer wall of his fortress and the ruins of an old chapel in the gardens behind the present-day castle. Being a reputable warrior and a remarkable landlord, he understood the strategic importance of Langeais as a promontory from which attacking armies could be easily seen. Later on, the domain came into the possession of various noblemen serving the king of France, who made it a prestigious residence to welcome the king whenever he would have wished to visit it.
The fortress successfully survived the hundred years war remaining almost untouched by the major military campaigns.
Charles VII was the first king to settle in Touraine by acquiring Langeais and other châteaux on the banks of the Loire. Louis XI continued this tradition, choosing to reside in Plessis-lès-Tours, Langeais, Chinon and Loches. By that time, Langeais lost its military role and slightly turned into a comfortable home for the royal court and family.
Louis XI built it according to his own vision and necessities. The castle preserves its massive appearance, marked by a drawbridge, narrow tall towers, machicolations and sharply sloping roofs, which are typically medieval, but some details of the façade and the fine windows already contain refinements that herald the Renaissance architecture.
Dunois, the cousin of Louis XI was given Langeais as a gift and proved to be a very concerned master. He not only cherished the chef-d’oeuvre erected by his predecessors but also added a new west wing.
The most important historical event hosted by the Langeais castle was the wedding between Charles VIII king of France and Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, arranged by Dunois and other French diplomats. The secret terms of the marriage contract were carefully thought over to unite Brittany to France forever. In the early morning of December 6th 1491 Anne of Brittany became queen of France, wearing a magnificent gown in gold cloth, beautifully imitated in the Wedding Hall of the castle, where lifelike waxwork figures re-enact the event (though I wouldn’t say “lifelike”, were people less tall in middle ages than they are today? Haha) (and by the way, according to historic data and available portraits, Anne was looking better than the yellow face wax figure without eyelashes!) Anyway, we all know the rest of the story, her (tiny tiny) husband very soon died and she had to marry his cousin who became Louis XII, in order to comply with the terms of the above mentioned contract and maintain Brittany as a French province.
Unfortunately Anne didn’t stay too much at Langeais, but the entire place seems to be breathing the air of her memory. Inside, you can still smell the coldness of that early misty December morning that changed her fate forever.
The castle had many owners after that, until it was finally bought by Jacques Siegfried, an Alsatian businessman interested in French Middle Ages. He succeeded to restore the château as it used to be in the 15th – 16th centuries and handed it down to the Institut de France at his death.
 
Impressions about the castle of Langeais? Well, there is a lot to say. It is a perfect reflection of a medieval princely abode with purely decorative floor tiles, fine pieces of furniture (beds, seats, fauteuils, chests), embroidered drapery, woven tapestry that all help us fancy the lifestyle at the end of the Middle Ages. In fact, Langeais hosts an exceptional collection of tapestries. They were very popular at the end of the 15th century to decorate walls, add warmth to homes and by representing figures of personages, religious /historic episodes or hunting scenes, feed the imagination of people during long tedious evenings.
 
Langeais is more than a museum and a priceless architectural inheritance. It is an open gate to plunging into the past by visiting an almost real medieval living environment, carefully recreated to challenge our minds and wish to know more…

Friday, October 22, 2010

Revue de livre de Gonzague Saint Bris "François Ier et la Renaissance"

Même si parfois on n’est pas entièrement d’accord avec l’auteur ou on a l’impression qu’il traite superficiellement certains chapitres de la vie de son héros, c’est un bon livre, plutôt romanesque.
Aborder la vie du grand François Ier dans le contexte de la Renaissance (qui a entièrement marqué son règne) est une approche intéressante et courageuse.
Gonzague Saint-Bris nous fait découvrir les qualités du roi et de l’homme François Ier – bon cavalier, expert aux armes, chasseur passionné, fin observateur des arts, protecteurs des architectes et des artistes qui sont invités à embellir les résidences royales. Côté politique, François a le goût pour écouter, apprendre et s’inspirer mais ne cesse pas de guerroyer comme un chevalier accompli et itinérant de son temps. Son histoire est à la fois captivante (l’ascension au trône de la France n’était pas tout à fait prédictible à sa naissance, la captivité en Espagne, le changement d’attitude envers les protestants), tragique (la mort précoce de la reine Claude, de sa mère Louise de Savoie et du dauphin) mais toujours fascinante (il préfère s’allier avec Soliman le Magnifique qu’avec Henri VIII d’Angleterre ou l’empereur Charles Quint).
Sa personnalité forte et magnétique attire pas seulement les femmes, quoique se sont elles qui l’entourent et dominent sa vie depuis son enfance (sa sœur Marguerite de Valois/Navarre, sa mère Louise de Savoie, la duchesse de Châteaubriant ou la duchesse d’Etampes – figures marquantes du début du XVIe siècle par leur intelligence), mais aussi le peuple qui apprécie ses efforts de visiter toutes les régions de son royaume, prendre contact directement avec ses sujets et accroitre de cette façon sa légitimité. Le roi est reconnu et aimé partout, incarnant ainsi le monarque idéal qui respecte ses sujets et affermi le pouvoir royal. Même dans ses échecs, il n’est jamais abandonné par les Français (sa captivité a renforcé sa popularité).
"L’autorité de François Ier est plus grande que n’a été celle d’un roi de France depuis longtemps", affirme Gonzague Saint-Bris qui nous révèle la formule du roi idéal dans la Renaissance: roi chevalier + roi lettré + roi amoureux + roi politique (100% appliquée à François Ier).
L’auteur a une vision innovatrice sur la modalité de rédiger une biographie historique; il ne suit pas seulement son modèle mais se penche sur une analyse rigoureuse de l’époque afin de nous présenter un personnage plus complet et vraisemblable. Il nous rappelle que la Renaissance c’est aussi la période de Rabelais, de Nostradamus, Copernic, Da Vinci, etc.
A savoir:
- François Ier a introduit la langue française comme langue administrative unique en France
- Il est le premier à envoyer des ambassadeurs permanents en autres pays et des navires au nouveau monde (Amérique et Canada)
- Même si tolérant envers les protestants au début de son règne il déclenche une vague de persécutions après l’affaire des placards
- Le roi a passé seulement 45 jours de son règne à Chambord, pourtant c’était sa plus grande fierté
- Il a eu l’initiative de fonder la Bibliothèque Royale (qui est devenue plus tard la Bibliothèque Nationale de France) ainsi que le Collège de France
- Ses résidences préférées étaient Fontainebleau, Amboise, Blois et Romorantin
- La relation avec Anne de Pisseleu a duré 21 ans, jusqu’à sa mort
- François Ier a réduit le pouvoir du pape sur l’église de France en instituant la soumission totale du clergé au roi
Conclusion: "François Ier et la Renaissance" est un ouvrage savoureux et agréable pour ceux qui sont passionnés par la Renaissance ou les Valois.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Movie review "Henri IV" 2010 or, where have all the good history movies gone?

"Henri IV" is a 2010 German/French TV production inspired by Heinrich Mann’s book and perceived by many viewers as a historical movie.
Interested in 16th century France and having read a great deal on the subject, I can tell you this movie is nothing but fiction, or most of it. It is true that the characters existed and the events took place but their interpretation is far from reality.
Who’s to blame? Perhaps Heinrich Mann’s book, which is somehow misleading to many readers interested in following the destiny of Prince Henry up to his becoming king of France. The author has never been a historian, as far as I know, and didn’t even bother to consult trustworthy sources after he suddenly decided to write his fictionalized and syrupy novel. I have read it about 15 years ago.

"Henri IV" movie is a mere adaptation of the above mentioned book, plus some fictional digressions, which vexed me greatly. It’s hard to stand such a painful distortion of real facts especially since most people, who do not take the trouble of reading history, tend to appreciate movies as a means of educating their knowledge. A disastrous perspective for our generation.

Let’s reveal only a few science fiction details:
- Nostradamus himself predicts Henri’s future ascension to the throne of France. In fact, when Henri was only a child nobody knew that he would eventually become king of France, since Charles IX had 2 brothers and was too young to assume he would not have sons of his own. It is wrong to suppose that Henry of Navarre the child was already seen as a future king of France, that idea came later on, after 1585.
- I see no reason why Charles IX is played by such an old actor. He died at the age of 24 and by the moment his sister Margot got married to Henry, he was only 22. They make him behave like a madman, though he was not. Yes, he didn’t really show interest in political affairs (he would rather go hunting than rule the country) and was of a sickly constitution but it’s hard to imagine a king with his shirt torn off insanely screaming, wrangling and climbing tables in front of the entire court. Charles and his brothers were raised and educated in a royal and respectable family.
- As to his brother, Henry of Anjou (whose punk hairstyle amused me greatly), is totally portrayed as being short-minded, indifferent and irresponsible. His fat, stupid appearance, and gay manners, made me realize that the black legend compromising Henry III’s image for many centuries is still perpetuated nowadays, despite numerous scientific attempts to destroy it.
- Margot looks like a cloying whore (same as in "Queen Margot" played by Isabelle Adjani). Frankly speaking, she has never been a saint, but to suppose that she was publicly spanked by her brother is unacceptable, especially in such a distinguished family.
- As expected, Catherine of Medicis is described as mean, selfish, greedy for power, and a pain in the ass to her children. Heinrich Mann and Alexandre Dumas have both contributed to feeding this horrible myth about Queen Catherine, as well as many others for the past 5 centuries or so. I wonder when people would become aware of her brilliant mind and endless efforts to maintain peace in a country devastated by civil war.
- Too much meaningless sex
- Endless time lapses and wrong chronology
The first hour of the movie reminds me a lot of "Queen Margot" (1994), which I previously criticized on my blog as a big failure to reproduce even Dumas’ vision on St. Barthelemy events.

Conclusion:
Any attempt to delve deeper into such a dispute is futile, mind-bogglingly silly and ridiculous. My idea is to point out that nothing in this movie is historically true, not even costumes, background, settings, situations, speeches, etc. It is pure cinematographic fiction.
So, do not let yourself guided astray by this interpretation of facts to assume that they happened this way in reality. Be wise enough to sift real facts from fiction.
The movie producers clearly deride most respectable historical figures of those times consciously/unconsciously sending a wrong message and feeding us with incorrect ideas.

Such cheesy productions must be counterbalanced by genuine historical adaptations, which are unfortunately waning these days. Most film makers seem to think producing good history movies is not worth the while: the audience is scarce and sales are less profitable. As a result, our generation is wading in ignorance of the past.

I am quite aware that my article might be strongly frowned upon by some movie-goers (who adore, by the way, "Queen Margot", "Alexander the Great" and probably "Troy" haha) but I am so bold as to reveal my true feelings, as I always do!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chenonceau castle - between myth and reality

When searching on internet information about the Chenonceau castle, one of the jewels of the French Loire valley, you normally get amazing pictures of a beautiful and shining castle spreading its wing, which dates from the 16th century, over the old river  shaped as a bridge. Well, believe it or not, they are 70% photoshoped. The shape is real but the difference between pictures and reality is huge!

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy visiting the château; I surely did, having the chance to rediscover already forgotten paths that remind me of Catherine or Louise. But in terms of aspect, it is the first castle in France that somehow disappointed me. I know, you would say that such an old construction can hardly be shiny and accurate, but why does it look so on postcards and google? Why create a fairy tale image which is not quite realistic? I would have accepted it  anyway.
This time I will spare you from any long stories, unlike previously, just let me mention why Chenonceau is significant à mon avis: I don’t care that it belonged to Diane de Poitiers, I never really liked mistresses, I would rather much care for Catherine of Medicis taking it back and making it her favorite residence for several years (although I doubt she spent too much time here). It has been the setting for some major happy reunions of the Valois family of which two are worth mentioning - 1560 (François II’s ascension to the throne) and 1577 (famous ball offered by Henri III to his subjects).
The castle was later on inherited by Queen Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, who used it as a place of mourning and praying after the tragic news of her husband’s violent death in 1589.
Chenonceau became a private residence in the 17th century and so it is nowadays, with the exception of the WWI period when the location served as a hospital.
The Marques tower, so called “donjon”, is the only trace of what used to be Chenonceau before Renaissance, dating from the 13th century, quite impressive and outstanding for its age!
I particularly enjoyed the 16th century farm nearby, with real vegetables, pastures and animals! 

More photos of Chenonceau here

Friday, October 8, 2010

Plessis-lès-Tours, le château oublié


Situé dans la commune Riche, près de Tours (dép. Indre-et-Loire), le château de Plessis-lès-Tours (also known as Montils-lès-Tours) abrite à présent un théâtre et plusieurs expositions. Il n’est presque jamais visité pas les touristes et peu de Tourangeaux savent où il se trouve et quelle est son histoire.

Pour moi, c’est un endroit important dans deux sens:
1. C’était la demeure favorite de Louis XI, il l’a achetée en 1468 et y est décédé en 1483, en plus, c’est ici que Charles VIII a emmené sa femme Anne de Bretagne après leur mariage et c’est ici que leur premier enfant est né en 1492 (malheureusement il n’a pas survécu).
2. Plessis-lès-Tours a été le lieu de rencontre entre Henri III et Henri de Navarre (futur Henri IV) après l’assassinat du duc de Guise pour s’allier à reconquérir Paris et affronter la ligue catholique en 1589, quelques mois avant la mort du roi.
Sa construction date donc du XVe siècle, achevée au XIXe siècle. De dimensions assez réduites, si comparé aux autres châteaux de la Renaissance, Plessis-lès-Tours a quand même son charme particulier provenant d’une atmosphère imprégnée d’histoire et d’un paysage idyllique. Le petit parc aux arbres séculaires qui entourent le château est dominé par un silence monumental, portant respect au symbolisme de l’endroit.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The splendors of the royal Château de Blois


Happily situated in downtown Blois (Loir-et-Cher department) and heading the castles dominating the famous Loire Valley in France, Château de Blois has been for a long time a must on my list, ever since I fell in love with the history of the French monarchy. My dream finally came true and when I first caught a glimpse over the castle towers, I daresay I had tears in my eyes and probably a stupid smile of my face. I am actually coming back to my roots to discover the places I longed for so eagerly. Here are just a few names whose lives are related to the story of the castle – Louis XII, Anne de Bretagne, François I, queen Claude, queen Catherine de Médicis, Henri II, François II, Marie Stuart, Charles IX, Henri de Navarre (future Henri IV), Marguerite de Navarre, Henri III, the Duke of Guise, Marie de Médicis and finally… Louise de la Vallière.
Makes me tremble when I think about all the events that happened in this royal seat over so many centuries, especially the 16th, during the horrors of the wars of religion and the decline of the Valois dynasty.
 

The initial citadel dates from the 9th century and it was only meant to protect the locals from frequent Viking invasions. It was the Blois counts who owned the castle for several generations, until it came into the possession of Louis d'Orléans in 1392, the king’s brother, subsequently being attached to the crown.

The first significant reconstruction of the château took place under the orders of Louis XII who made Blois his seat, showing a special bond with this wonderful piece of land and aiming to express by its architecture the power of the royalty and the artistic magnificence of those times.  Erected in 1508 and adorned with the porcupine of Louis XII and the ermine of Anne of Brittany, the Louis XII wing displayed quite a modern layout for the beginning of the 16th century. It combines visible Gothic and some Renaissance elements.

François I was especially fond of Blois and took good care to continue the work of his predecessor by attaching a new wing - entirely a Renaissance chef-d’oeuvre, directly influenced by Italian art.  The sophistication of the newly architectural style is reflected in the façade des Loges and culminates with the famous spiral staircase, yet praised and admired by many modern architects. Some say it was Leonardo da Vinci himself who got this idea of asymmetry and innovation. The ornaments are mostly of Italian inspiration, marked by refined bas-relief sculptures. When the sun is shining, the entire façade seems to be brightened by a certain magic luminosity that highlights pleasant contours and evokes the sense of immortality.
As to the library created by François I at the château, although later on moved to Fontainebleau, it clearly constituted a novelty and showed the keen interest of the king for arts and science along with an acute concern for perpetuation.

The castle hosted some happy events, as the engagement of Henri de Navarre & Marguerite Valois, along with some tragic ones, namely the assassination of the Duke of Guise on the occasion of the Estates-General convention held at Blois in December 1588, under the orders of Henri III.  In this context, it is worth mentioning that Blois was the setting for the famous Mary Stuart’s childhood, before she became the wife of François II (who unluckily died a few months after their coronation) and queen of France.

The second wife of Henri IV, Marie de Médicis, spent several years at the castle, placed under house arrest by her son, Louis XIII. Her presence determined some significant improvements that were taken over in 1634 by Gaston d’Orléans, the king’s brother. He actually initiated the construction of the third wing, true mirror of French classicism: allegorical figures, coved ceilings and elegant effects. Due to some circumstances that led to scarcity of funds, the newest wing remained unfinished.

It is not until 1841 that the château de Blois was acknowledged as historic monument and a serious restoration began under the direction of Felix Duban, who seems to have made miracles, because what we actually see today is a fine, almost 100% imitation of what used to be the castle by the middle of the 17th century.

Naturally, the interior decorations and furniture hardly respect the initial disposition of rooms, but the main attractions have been successfully reestablished, and that’s the most important thing: the Royal Apartments, the Queen’s Gallery (Catherine de Médicis), the Queen’s Chamber, the King’s Chamber, the Room of des Guises, the Council Room, all situated in the François I wing. Furthermore, the oldest wing of the château hosts the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

It’s a little bit confusing to stand before such an intermingling of obviously different architectural styles (Gothic, Renaissance and Classic) but it shows progression and a vivid expression of evolution in art.

Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to allege that Blois is my favorite French royal castle, because I love them all, but let’s say it has a special place in my heart. At the château de Blois I feel like being home. I rediscover myself as I never did before.

For more pictures of Blois click here

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Castelul Amboise – mostenire renascentista pe valea Loirei


Amboise este unul dintre castelele mele preferate in Franta; in primul rand pentru ca reprezinta expresia vie a artei arhitecturale din perioada Renasterii si in al doilea rand pentru ca istoria lui este legata intrinsec de numele lui François I, regele ctitor si morarhul deschizator de drumuri care a contribuit la inflorirea Frantei pe plan intern si extern in prima jumatate a secolului 16.
Bineinteles, mai subzista elemente medievale in ansamblul constructiei, situata in mod fericit chiar pe malul Loirei, pe o culme care ofera si avantajul unui peisaj magnific, ce poate fi admirat de pe terasele castelului, la inaltime destul de mare.
Si apoi, multa lume cand spune "Amboise" se gandeste imediat la Leonardo da Vinci, geniul sculptor si pictor (dar nu numai, sa nu uitam numeroasele sale inventii tehnice care au avut efectul unei revolutii). Acesta si-a petrecut ultimii ani din viata la Amboise, ce-i drept locuind in apropiere (la Clos-Lucé) dar fiind prezent mereu in preajma regelui pentru a pune in practica ideile sale extraordinare.
Recunosc, eu m-am dus la Amboise pentru François I si imaginea lui, atat de pierduta in timp, dar care inca mai domina locul in mod evident, dupa 5 secole. Dar, chiar si inainte de el, Amboise a fost multa vreme considerat un punct strategic pe valea Loirei, sa amintim cel putin asezarea care exista aici in antichitate, reuniunea dintre Clovis si regele vizigotilor in 504, dar si fortificatia medievala cea mai protejata din zona in acele timpuri. Incepand cu 1434 castelul este confiscat de regele Frantei Charles VII si devine domeniu regal, fiind locuinta preferata a lui Charles VIII. El este cel care decide sa extinda si sa infrumuseteze fortificatia medievala invitand artisti italieni la curte. Aceastia reusesc sa transforme Amboise intr-un veritabil palat. Opera sa este continuata de Louis XII dar mai ales de François I.
Stau si ma intreb daca nu cumva acest François I a fost un fel de Stefan cel Mare al nostru, atat de mester si priceput la toate, cu un spirit artistic desavarsit si manuitor de arme. Prezenta lui am simtit-o cu aceeasi pregnanta la Fontainebleau, Blois, Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Omul acesta pe unde a calcat a lasat ceva frumos in urma lui…
Revenind la castelul Amboise (nu pot sa-l numesc palat, pentru ca are mai mult alura de castel), Henri II si-a adus si el aportul in ceea ce priveste dezvoltarea arhitecturala a domeniului. Incepand cu Henri III regalitatea pierde cu totul interesul pentru Amboise, preferand alte locuinte, astfel incat castelul este folosit multa vreme mai mult sau mai putin drept inchisoare de lux pentru personaje din viata politica. Tot ce s-a intamplat dupa aceea este mult prea dureros ca sa poata fi povestit si e o minune astazi ca o mare parte din ce a fost odata s-a pastrat sau a fost restaurat cu blandete.
Interiorul foarte frumos este decorat cu piese de mobilier ce imita epocile respective, a caror poveste o putem afla de la ghidul ce insoteste grupurile de vizitatori. Salle du Conseil, Salle des gardes, Chambre de Henri II – minunate! Am fost realmente fascinata de turnul Minimes, in care urci fara sa-ti dai seama ca intr-o spirala, mirosind peretii impregnati de atatea secole de istorie.
Gradinile nu sunt atat de vaste cum ma asteptam si nici la fel de frumoase ca la Fontainebleau dar merita vizitate. Interesant este ca totul se afla undeva la intaltime, iar cand parasesti castelul si ajungi in strada ai senzatia ca ai coborat dintr-o alta lumea. Straduta din fata intrarii este animata de o multime de terase, restaurante si buticuri de unde poti cumpara diverse suveniruri personalizate.

Concluzie: Amboise, un loc mirific ce debordeaza de istorie... Un loc ce ne face sa ne inchinam celor care au pus umarul cu atata drag si daruire la construirea unui asemenea edificiu durabil dar si sa ne punem intrebari. Oare ce cladire construita in secolul 20 va rezista macar un secol? Nici una... dar oare ei cum reuseau pe vremuri? Sa fie oare secretul jertvei umane sau un interes mai mare pentru viitor?
Photos Amboise


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smiling - a healthy & constructive approach to life

Ever since I can remember, I have been living in a world of stress, tears, worries and fear thinking that it is the way life is supposed to be, and there is nothing we can do to change the portfolio of our attitudes and approvals. But lately I have had the chance to get in touch with another universe of behavior, considerations and state of mind. I am not saying that French people are perfect, but at least they know how to preserve their level-headedness and no matter the situation they face it with a pure and innocent smile that already solves half the problem. Their attitude towards life is genuinely healthy and constructive. No nerves, no yelling, no resentment, no hatred, no envy. Everyone minds his own business, smiling and showing compassion or understanding towards the other.

I used to wonder whether the Romanian innate spirit of curiosity and evilness was to condemn or to pity. Now I am quite sure that I would never be happy as long as I think and act as a Romanian/Moldavian, dominated by anxiety, irrational mistrust, a sense of rage and betrayal. It’s simply not healthy. As a proof to that, being in Bucharest for 8 years made me very sick and brought me to a state of great tension and frustration with my life. I am now quite resolute: there is no happiness when spending nights awake worrying about money, family issues or disputes at work. No. The only chance to have a normal life and achieve contentment is to live in a healthy society where people smile at you sincerely and do not curse you behind your back, where they do not interfere but when asked to do so, always in a very gentle way, to avoid any offenses, misunderstandings or hidden meanings.
I am now eager to reshape my perspective on life according to some new values.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dreams coming true

Louvre – visited (2009)
Château de Versailles – visited (2009)
Château de Vincennes – visited (2009)
Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye – visited (2009)
Château de Fontainebleau – visited (2009) 

Basilique de Saint-Denis – visited (2009)
Château d’Amboise – visited (2010)
Château royal de Blois – visited (2010)

Yet to come : Chambord, Chenonceau, Clos-lucé, Saumur, Chinon, Angers, etc.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Premières impressions sur Tours


Une ville magique, aux boulevards animés, pleins de touristes en centre, des rues presque vides pendant toute la journée, avec des maisons mignonnes, beaucoup de brasseries attractives, magasins chics, églises anciennes...

J’ai déjà compris où est le nord et où est le sud, voilà un progrès après seulement deux jours! :))
Les distances sont acceptables, du coup la marche à pied est une activité ordinaire pour les habitants de Tours. Un peu fatiguant pour une fille aux talons comme moi, mais je crois que je m’habituerai très vite!










Photos Tours

Friday, August 20, 2010

My top 5 most beautiful women


Sofia Rotaru – singer, 63 years, Russia, born in Ukraine, started her career in Republic of Moldova in early 1970s and moved to Russia to become one of the most popular and adored Russian singers.
Looks amazingly young and fresh! Always had a pretty face and a lovely smile.

 








Sophie Ellis Bextor – singer, songwriter and model, 31 years, UK.
Love her voice and looks, always elegant and attractive, a good example of femininity to all women.

 










Sophie Marceau – actress, 43 years, France.
Has the purest expression of French exquisite refinement, modesty and beauty, though simple, she’s always charming and very close to the concept of "femme fatale". Excellent actress, especially in "L’étudiante".

 









Kiira Korpi - figure skater, 22 years, Finland.
The best combination of innocent childish face and attractive woman body. Not the best in figure skating championships but her appearance is always a delightful pleasure to any human eye. Cute & eye-catching!

 








Isabelle Adjani – actress, 55 years, France.
Used to be gorgeous in her 20s and 30s, unfortunately not anymore… In good old times, she was very seductive!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Primul concert important al lui Dj Vix


Snatt & Vix vor mixa timp de 6 ore in deschidere la TIESTO pe plaja Hanul Piratilor din Navodari (Mamaia Nord), vineri 6 august 2010.

Interviu despre nunta pe miresedisperate.ro

Am acordat recent un interviu site-ului www.miresedisperate.ro despre nunta de anul trecut. Il puteti citi la urmatoarea adresa: 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stela Gheorghe poeta sau bloggerita?

Am observat in ultima vreme ca mai e cineva pe nume Stela Gheorghe in spatiul internaut. Ma amuza oarecum situatia. Tipa are vreo 55 ani si s-a apucat recent de poezie. Nu am nimic impotriva ei, dar avand in vedere si tentativele mele de a face poezie, sper sa nu fim usor confundate :)

Mentionez ca poeziile mele figureaza exclusiv pe acest blog in sectiunea my poetry. Nu au fost publicate niciodata in alta parte si nu le puteti gasi in alte surse.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Romane excelente, ecranizari proaste

Eu cred ca fiecare natiune are mentalitatea ei mostenita din traditii, mod de viata, felul in care a evoluat tara respectiva de-a lungul secolelor. Iata de ce literatura tarii reflecta atat de fidel spiritul unui popor. Intr-o inlantuire logica, ecranizari literare ar trebui sa se faca numai pe baza literaturii autohtone. De exemplu, francezii ar trebui sa-l ecranizeze pe Balzac, englezii pe Dickens si rusii pe Tolstoi. Dar ce se intampla atunci cand unii se aventureaza sa ecranizeze literatura straina? Nu poate urma decat un esec, sau o prezentare distorsionata. Viziunea originala a autorului nu coincide aproape niciodata cu viziunea regizorului.

De ce mi-a venit sa scriu despre asta: am vazut de curand un film facut de francezi in 2006 pe baza romanului "Lady Chatterley's Lover", de D. H. Lawrence (unul dintre autorii mei preferati) care m-a revoltat. Chiar nu inteleg cum au ajuns francezii sa ecranizeze un roman autentic englezesc si de ce… Mare greseala (literatura lor fiind atat de vasta, incat ma mir ca duc lipsa de subiecte). Numai cand ii auzi pe francezi cum pronunta nume englezesti deja iti vine sa renunti. Actori alesi foarte prost, actiune prea lenta, chiar si settingul nu seamana deloc cu cel din carte.

La aceasta categorie se mai incadreaza si alte filme, cum ar fi "Anna Karenina"(1997) sau "Rasputin" (1996) facute de americani. Tot respectul pentru Sophie Marceau, o ador, dar cand se apuca sa vorbeasca ruseste e dezastru. De ce sa faci un film in Rusia, despre rusi, cu actori americani? Mai bine l-ai face in intregime rusesc. Nu zic, e buna globalizarea, si la capitolul ecranizari literare, dar... de multe ori aceastea lasa de dorit.
Un alt exemplu similar: "Cei trei muschetari" filmat de americani in 1993, cam stupizel spre lamentabil. Nici nu pot sa mi-l imaginez pe d’Artagnan vorbind alta limba decat franceza, cu accent de gascon! Poate cer prea multe... Dar pentru mine unele romane sunt atat de sfinte incat mi se pare un sacrilegiu sa-ti bati joc de ele prin ecranizari proaste.

Aici insa trebuie sa mentionez cateva exceptii, si anume:

1) Rusii au facut cateva ecranizari dupa Alexandre Dumas tatal foarte reusite: "Cei trei muschetari" (1979), "Regina Margot" (serial 1996) si "Madame de Montsoreau" (serial 1997). Subiectele au fost tratate cu seriozitate, s-au respectat minutios toate detaliile prezentate in carte iar personajele desi nu vorbesc franceza, sunt minunate. Voi revedea aceste filme ori cate ori mi se face dor de ele.
2) Francezii si-au creat propria "Regina Margot" in 1994, cu Isabelle Adjani. Este una dintre cartile mele preferate dar Dumas n-a scris un roman violent si scandalos, ci a dezvaluit niste evenimente istorice intr-o maniera romantata. Interpretarea evenimentelor din film e slabuta, personajele parca sunt fugite de la casa de nebuni, Margot are relatii intime cu necunoscuti pe strada, etc. Un tablou ingrozitor si total necorespunzator realitatii. Nu e un film pe care sa vrei sa-l revezi.

Deci, filme bune, filme proaste, pana la urma tot mai bine e sa citesti cartea in original si sa ramai cu propriile tale imagini, atat de placute.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflections on the eve of my birthday


Hamlet’s question haunts me since I was nearly 16 and faced life’s difficulties for the first time. Not too much changed. But of course, efforts to be optimistic have been made all these years, attempts to become a better human being, to accomplish some great things and achieve a state of inner contentment. Too much agitation, energy spent on working, learning, fighting, hoping, every day. New ideas rushing into my head and not letting me sleep.

And all for nothing. In vain I have struggled. Old thoughts keep coming back to me. I am the same fragile teenage trying to escape reality, but all the doors are locked. I am condemned to watch myself grow into a dangerous state of frustration and alienation from my life.

We are thrown into this world, whether we want it or not, and forced to survive. Some of us are doing it better than the others. Some of us like the idea of constant fight and aspire to get on top of the wave to display their power to survive so well… while others are merely wondering what they are doing here and hide themselves behind the painful mask of illusion.

Non-sense? Not at all. These are the thoughts of a grown-up who has lived more than a quarter of a century, and has already experienced a lot: happiness in childhood, disappointment and anger in adolescence, love, hatred, passion and hope in youth and is now trying to draw some general conclusions. 

I am not the right person to confirm the existence of happiness. The concept is different for every one of us. But as long as we don’t have inner peace, self-contentment and self-confidence, happiness is almost impossible. Such an emotional equilibrium can hardly be acquired.

“To be or not to be?..
Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them?”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Movie review: "Anne of the Thousand Days"

Great movie, though old enough (1969) to stir some reactions. I must say I am not a fan of very old movies, mainly because some of them are really boring (such as "The six wives of Henry VIII" series, 1970). But this illustration of Anne’s life amazed me with magnificence, excellent cast and quite truthful interpretation of events. It is the story of Anne’s ascension to power and downfall, during her 1000 days of happiness and love shared with the king. 

The actors - Geneviève Bujold, perfect in her role of Anne Boleyn, beautiful, delicate, keen but proud and very determined; makes almost a perfect Anne, though I picture her less nervous and a little more cunning; Richard Burton – the ideal Henry VIII, however too much goodness in his eyes for such a cold-blooded monster as he was sometimes; handsome, still attractive at his age (over 40, unlike the Henry played in "The Tudors" series by Johnatan Rhys Meyers who looked too young). I didn’t particularly enjoy the performances of Thomas Cromwell (played by John Colicos) and Thomas More (played by William Squire).

For 2 hours and almost 20 minutes we are going through the most important events related to Anne’s life starting from her meeting the king in 1527 up to her death in 1536. Anne’s attempt to resist the king before their marriage is admirable and totally explains his impatience to get hold of her body and soul but as soon as he possesses her, he no longer needs her. (That happens in real life too!) I am not going to tell the entire story; you might know it from history books, other movies or my own previous notes. I just have one negative remark. The movie states no connection between Henry’s breach with Rome and the spreading of Protestantism in England. This element has been ignored or wittingly put away to focus on others. Such neglect can hardly be forgiven when it comes to presenting major events taking place in 1533-1536 that lead to the Reformation of the English Church, especially since Anne presumably took part in this initiative.

"Anne of the Thousand Days" won many international awards and received great praise from film-makers worldwide. I recommend it at least for great costumes and setting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Revue de livre Jean-François Solnon "Henri III"

J’ai toujours été fascinée par le destin des enfants de Catherine de Médicis, surtout celui d’Henri III, avec qui s’éteigne la dynastie de Valois qui a dominé la scène politique de la France entre 1358 et 1589.
L’auteur du livre nous entraine dans l’aventure de sa vie, depuis sa naissance le 19 septembre 1551 à Fontainebleau, jusqu’à sa mort tragique survenue suite à un assassinat le 1er août 1589 au château de Saint-Cloud.
Henri, né Alexandre Édouard, a passé son enfance entre Blois, Fontainebleau, Amboise, Vincennes et Rambouillet à côté de ses frères et soeurs François (II), Charles (IX), Margot (reine de Navarre) et Marie Stuart. Après la mort de François II et l’avènement de Charles IX, en pleine maturité, il devient une sorte de vice-roi et commandant de l’armée responsable de la victoire de Jarnac et du siège de la Rochelle. Même si son comportement s’avérait plutôt ultra-catholique, Solnon exclue toute participation d’Henri dans les décisions prises pendant le massacre de la Sainte Barthélemy, premièrement à cause de son esprit tolérant et deuxièmement à cause de sa position comme candidat au trône d’une Pologne quasi-protestante.
Longtemps amoureux de Marie de Clèves il a énormément souffert en apprenant son mariage et puis sa mort. Elle a été la passion de sa vie, même s’il a montré plus tard beaucoup de respect et amour pour sa femme, Louise de Vaudémont.
Pendant le siège de la Rochelle en juin 1572 il apprend son élection au trône de Pologne (grâce à ses qualités militaires) mais ne s’empresse pas d’y partir. La santé fragile de Charles IX lui donne l’espoir d’hériter le trône de la France, ayant l’appui de sa mère Catherine. Il considérait la Pologne comme un exil.
C’est devant la Rochelle et puis dans son chemin vers la Pologne qu’il commence à constituer son entourage privé des futurs mignons: Saint-Luc, Caylus, La Valette, Saint-Sulpice, François d’O.
L’aventure de Pologne a été un échec. Aussitôt qu’il a appris la mort de son frère en juin 1574 la fuite vers la France devient inévitable.
C’est vrai que jamais aucun prince n’avait été plus impatiemment attendu par la France. Jeune, intelligent, bon militaire, religieux et bureaucrate, Henri III possédait toutes les qualités pour continuer la tradition de son grand-père François I.
Malgré les espérances, 15 ans plus tard, il devenait le plus détesté, haï et calomnié roi que la France a jamais eu. Ce qui me parait le plus curieux est notamment son caractère trop alternant et inconstant. Dans sa jeunesse il a démontré des capacités excellentes comme capitaine, guerrier, homme politique, mais aussi intellectuel raffiné (beaucoup plus raffiné que ses frères et qui avait plutôt des affinités intellectuelles avec sa sœur Marguerite). Toute l’Europe le voyait comme un autre François I. Mais dans la seconde moitié de sa vie, après avoir occupé le trône de la France, il se montre faible, craignant, instable. Sa prédilection pour la pénitence, la douleur, la foi excessive aussi comme son attachement à quelques bourgeois qu’il préfère dans son entourage plus que les membres de sa famille, relève un autre Henri, que sa mère Catherine ne connaissait pas, que la France ne pouvait pas anticiper. Comment a pu-t-il changer de cette manière en quelques années? Le vainqueur de Jarnac devient le roi désarmé, envahi par l’autorité des Guises et le travesti à mœurs dubitatifs…
Solnon explique cette transformation par la situation de la France à la fin du XVIème siècle: le pays étant divisé entre protestants et catholiques après huit guerres de religion, l’autorité royale ruinée.  Les passions ultra catholiques ont condamné Henri à la guerre contre les protestants et à défendre sa position contre le Balafré (François de Guise) qui a signé un traité d’alliance avec l’Espagne dans l’espoir de succéder au trône de la France. Monsieur son frère, François d’Anjou a aussi contribué à l’impopularité du roi par ses nombreuses fuites, révoltes et rêves de conquérir un royaume. Après sa mort en 1584, le duc de Guise devient l’ennemi numéro 1 d’Henri.  La vie du roi reste en danger surtout après l’occupation de la capitale par les ligueurs en 1588. Il est impuissant et faible, forcé d’exclure Henri de Navarre de la succession.
Á l’occasion des États Généraux de Blois, le soir de Noël 1588 Henri III donne l’ordre de tuer le duc de Guise, suite à une nécessité politique. Mais la paix ne s’installe ni dans son pays ni dans son âme. Plus acharnés que jamais, les ligueurs ne désirent que la vengeance de leur chef et organise l’assassinat du roi, le 1er août 1589, par l’intermédiaire d’un moine fanatique, Jacques Clément.
Le dernier Valois disparait ainsi sans héritier, laissant une nation plongée dans le désastre de la guerre civile. Pour la première fois personne n’a prononcé la célèbre formule: "Le roi est mort, vive le roi!" car la perspective d’un roi protestant était à ce moment-là innaceptable. Pourtant, après des luttes sanglantes et sa conversion au catholicisme, Henri IV, le premier Bourbon, accédera au trône de la France et initiera l’ère de la modernité.

Un bon livre, très compacte et objectif, à recommander pour des études sur la personnalité d’Henri III ainsi que pour une lecture agréable.

Voilà quelques citations que j’ai particulièrement aimé:

"La popularité d’Henri n’avait été qu’un soleil de janvier"
"Ce que j’aime c’est avec extrémêté" (Henri III)
"Il (le roi) redoute la défaite catholique, cependant il la désire"
"Mon fils, c’est bien taillé, mais il faut coudre" (Catherine de Médicis à propos de l’assassinat du duc de Guise)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Possible reasons for Anne Boleyn’s downfall


Anne Boleyn is one of my favorite personalities in the history of England. Her rise and fall have always been sympathetic to most history passionates and her fate caused many controversial discussions over the last 500 years since her death. So far, I know several alleged reasons for her downfall, though I do not totally agree with them and doubt they are based on real facts.

- The guilt of adultery summoned her as traitor to the Crown. She has been accused of intimate relationships with her brother George and some other men. Who could believe such a non-sense? Anne was too well educated and respectful of her family to be able to commit such an immorality. She cared too much for her position as queen to imperil it as did Catherine Howard. The testimony of Countess of Worcester and the poem of Lancelot de Carles were taken  as only proof, which in our days is not sufficient evidence. Moreover, the investigation lasted only 17 days. The time was too short to clarify things in a proper manner.

- Henry was deceived in Anne due to her frequent miscarriages. This is probably the most powerful argument in his decision to get rid of her. It’s true, she failed to produce a male heir during their three years of marriage but even so, he was too harsh on her. Anne was fully aware of the huge responsibility on her shoulders and thus put under a lot of pressure. I don’t think she had fertility problems but stress might obviously affect the normal development of pregnancies. Henry was too hasty, she was too eager to offer him what he wanted and so her hours were counted. Let’s not forget that the king lived with Catherine of Arragon for 24 years and she only produced a girl, the future Mary I. If Anne had been spared her death I am sure she could have given him many sons.

- Anne dug her own grave by showing too much of her character. Yes, her strong personality charmed Henry VIII before they were married but irritated him after. She was indeed very ambitious, straightforward, sincere, jealous, proud and impulsive which caused her great trouble in the relationship with her husband, Thomas Cromwell and other members of the court who either adored her or hated her deeply. But that could hardly be a reason to imprison or kill someone.

- Thomas Cromwell’s dislike of Anne and the fear for his own position determined his plotting against her, even before Henry had anything to do with it. There was no evidence of her being unfaithful, so he had to find it. Cromwell was more of a pro-Spanish partisan while Anne, due to her education in France, has always shown more interest in a French alliance. There was also another issue between them concerning the dissolution of monasteries, an affair entirely controlled by Cromwell. The two enemies were constantly and visibly competing over Henry’s mind, but unfortunately for Anne, some additional circumstances determined the king to claim her disgrace. The beheading of Cromwell followed soon after, but at that particular moment his position at court was not threatened.

- Some say that the appearance of Jane Seymour in Henry VIII’s life determined his cruel attitude towards Anne and his urgent desire to get rid of her. I do not agree here. Jane was the right girl at the right moment, when the king needed a new hope for his descendancy. And we all know how easily he was sometimes influenced and how changing was his mood. He met Jane, fell for her and saw in her a possible match, especially since she seemed to be everything Anne wasn’t: shy, obedient, submissive.

- According to popular belief of 16th century England, Anne Boleyn was a witch. I am sure Thomas Cromwell and the other members of the court initiated the rumors and you know how superstitious people can be. A terrible story of her miscarrying a deformed fetus was circulating throughout the country but no such evidence ever existed.

- Anne’s Reformist ideas led her into trouble. I do not totally agree with this argument. As part of the Boleyn faction Anne clearly supported new ideas and the transformation of the English church but she never exaggerated her faith nor imposed her opinions on others. Henry’s break with Rome was entirely his own intention but Anne had to bear the consequences.

I sometimes wonder what could have happened to Anne if she succeeded to produce a son during her short reign. Her fate would have certainly been different. Nonetheless, she and Henry were too similar in character to have a long-lasting and peaceful relationship.

Just received from Amazon Eric Ives’ book on “The life and death of Anne Boleyn” and can hardy wait to devour it during my vacation. Perhaps I would find other arguments to delight you with next time!