Today we celebrate Bastille Day – French Independence Day. I have a few very special French friends/mentors/teachers who have shared in abundance their ‘joi de vivre’ with many people in their lives. Having a French first name, I have always been a fan of French culture from which I have also found inspiration for creating a mood of play in my games.
It is interesting to consider our connection to French history and culture today, after recently celebrating our own Independence Day on July 4 in the U.S. In New York City, the Statue of Liberty, designed by French sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was a gift from France to the people of the United States. Since 1886, Lady Liberty continues to uphold a torch filled with outpouring light.
When I was developing the Quills! Concord Edition II game, I discovered an interesting anecdote by Margaret Fuller, who was a transcendentalist writer, friend and collaborator of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bronson Alcott. As an early champion for women’s rights, Fuller traced the founding of the U.S. to Queen Isabella I of Spain’s commission of Christopher Columbus’ expedition, which led to the securing of our collective freedom to pursue individual happiness (joi de vivre). This would eventually include freedom for women, uniquely symbolized by the Statue of Liberty that was gifted by France. From Fuller’s perspective, America was destined to be a free world for women to equally pursue their own happiness alongside men.
I also learned about the Napoleonic Wars during England’s Regency Era and how they impacted Jane Austen’s life as reflected in some of the minor characters in her novels. Important French women who are heroines featured in the Quills! Elizabethan Edition I include Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan d’Arc. Both heroines were included in Shakespeare’s historic plays, King John and Henry VI, Part I respectively.
To say that Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) led a fascinating life is an understatement. She was the daughter of William X (1099-1137) from whom she inherited the Duchy of Aquitaine (1137). By her marriage to King Louis VII (1120-1180), she was Queen Consort of France (1137-1152), and later through her second marriage to King Henry II (1133-1189), she became Queen Consort of England (1154-1189). Eleanor bore ten children, raising three kings (Henry the Young, Richard I “Coeur de Lion,” and John) and two queens (Eleanor and Joan). Considered to be one of the wealthiest and most influential women who lived during the High Middle Ages, Eleanor suffered greatly by outliving her spouses and most of her children, plus foiling many plots against her.
Throughout her life, Eleanor helped her husbands and sons govern at times, and led armies and crusades, all the while managing the affairs of Aquitaine as its Duchess. As Henry II’s Queen Consort, she influenced the governance of England, half of France, plus parts of Wales and Ireland. When in her mid-sixties, she impressively traveled the Pyrenees on horseback to negotiate a marriage for her granddaughter Blanche, as part of the Treaty of Le Goulet that was signed between her son, King John and his rival Philip Augustus.
Eleanor, whose name means ‘shining light’ was depicted in one of William Shakespeare’s earliest performed historic dramatic plays – King John– and much later in the award-winning film, The Lion in Winter (1968), seemingly without the strength, compassion and fortitude it would take an individual to have lived such a long life then, with great endurance and grace. In her effigy at Fontevraud Abbey, she reverently holds an open book, where she is buried beside Henry II, Richard I, and Isabella of Angoulême (as shown in above montage with Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I).
While Queen Consort of England and Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor is presumed to have established the legendary ‘Courts of Love.’ She was an inspiring subject of many poets and was an early patron of the literary arts, perhaps in homage to her grandfather, William IX (1071-1127), who was considered one of the original troubadours. William IX was a peer of the medieval scholar and theologian, Peter Abelard (1079-1142), whose preserved letters to his beloved Héloïse may remind fans of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s eloquent Sonnets of the Portuguese (1850).
Joan d’Arc was a fearless and valiant warrior for France, whose efforts helped France and England to maintain their independence of each other, preserving their unique cultural heritages and way of life. Without Joan’s visionary guidance, our world would be a dimmer place. Joan was a daring young peasant girl who left her family to follow a spiritual impulse that ultimately united France and liberated England through her courageous, selfless acts and fortitude.
While disguised as a soldier, she recruited faithful followers who believed in her mission. Cleared of charges against her after the Hundred Years War ended, Joan, whose name means ‘gift from God’ was canonized a saint in 1909. Sometimes called ‘The Maid of Orléans,’ she was later recognized as a National Heroine of France.
Please enjoy! Vive les héroïnes de France!