Across the Doubtful Sea, Alexandre Dumas, Bastille, Bastille Day, Bastille Day parade, Beau Geste, Bernard Cornwell, Brigadier Gerard, C.S. Forester, CD, Charles X, Conan Doyle, Cyrano de Bergerac, de Bougainville, Edmond Rostand, Eugene Leliepvre, French Foreign Legion, French Royal Navy, Hornblower, King's French Guard, Louis Philippe, Marquis de Montcalm, Napoleon, Place de la Bastille, Place Henri Galli, Sharpe, South Pacific, The Three Musketeers
Dear readers, chers lecteurs,
Welcome/bienvenue as always/comme toujours. This is a special extra posting for our faithful French readers, but really for all of our readers who love adventure and history—and that, as far as we can tell, is everyone who regularly reads us.
When we were thinking about this special Bastille Day extra, we wondered what we should write about.
We could, of course, write about the original Bastille day, 14 July, 1789, when a crowd of brave and angry Parisians, aided by some members of the King’s French Guard, attacked the 14th-century fortress-turned-state-prison, and forced its surrender.
(We can’t resist a visual footnote– you’ll notice the people to the right in dark blue with the fuzzy hats. These are members of a grenadier company of the French Guard. Here’s a larger and more modern illustration of these Guards by one of our favorite French military artists, Eugene Leliepvre.)
Not satisfied with capturing the place, the revolutionaries soon tore it down, and it’s now the Place de la Bastille, with a column, erected in 1840, commemorating the revolution of 1830, in which the last member of the Bourbon monarchy, Charles X, was overthrown and was replaced by his cousin, Louis Philippe.
In 1899, a small section of one of the Bastille’s towers was discovered during metro excavations and is now on display in the Place Henri Galli, not far from its original site.
The Revolution which followed the fall of the Bastille brought on the era of Napoleon and, for those of us interested in adventure and who read English, at sea, C.S. Forester’s “Hornblower” series, among others, and, on land, Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series and, long before that, the “Brigadier Gerard” stories of Conan Doyle. Hornblower and others have appeared in some of our earlier postings, when we discussed sources for our first novel, Across the Doubtful Sea, set in an imaginary South Pacific in the 18th century,
but we’ve never looked at Gerard or Sharpe. And we would be glad if our French readers would offer comparable books in French for this period (one of us grew up in a Francophile household and reads French). One reason why heroes in our first novel are members of the French Royal Navy is that the period from 1750 to 1800 is filled with adventure, both in exploration and in war, and that navy is constantly involved, something of which English readers have no knowledge.
(Another color plate by Leliepvre.)
One has only to remember de Bougainville (1729-1811),
who began his career as an aide to the Marquis de Montcalm, the daring and resourceful commander of French regular forces in New France, 1756-1759.
In the 1780s, however, he had become a naval commander, leading an exploratory expedition to the South Pacific.
Throughout the later 17th and 18th centuries, the French Navy formed a large part of the French struggle for commercial supremacy across the world.
Or then again, as we’ve done once before, we could go back to the 17th century and write about Alexandre Dumas and his famous musketeers, who first appeared in The Three Musketeers (1844).
Or there is the wonderful play Cyrano de Bergerac (1897) by Edmond Rostand, set about 1640. We could easily write a posting about the amazing scene in the first act alone, where, at the Hotel de Bourgogne, Cyrano fights a duel and composes a ballade at the same time.
What else? Hmm. How about the French Foreign Legion of one of our favorite old adventure movies, Beau Geste (1939)?
And then a final then again, perhaps it’s best just to wish everyone a happy Bastille Day and end with some dramatic views from a previous parade…
Merci, nos lecteurs/thanks, as ever, for reading.