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France

Decolonization II

I was a student during the Indochina War. I trembled with all of France during the siege of Dien Bien Phu. The French army was stuck in a basin surrounded by hills occupied by Viet Cong “rebels” who could attack at their pleasure. The siege seemed to last forever, it was heroic. France was anxious,…

The Curse of Joan of Arc

When I was 10 years old, my mother forced me to learn horseback riding. Every Thursday afternoon I went to the stables for my lessons. I hated it. The stables belonged to the Duchess of L. She was in her eighties and always rode sidesaddle, perfectly erect and wearing an elegant black tricorn hat. Her…


Decolonization

World War II had weakened colonial powers, decolonization was inevitable. The ensuing conflicts set off a reaction against all forms of oppression. Simply, people wanted to be free. It was an evolution of History. The two empires of the time played a role in the movement. Curiously, the Soviet Union, which in principle should have supported the…

France

In 1948 we left Spain, crossing the Bidassoa bridge on foot while dragging our luggage to catch the train to Paris. There were still, on certain streets, slabs of wood that had been installed at the turn of the century to damped the sounds of the large wheels of the horse drawn carriages. I remember…

Melusine

My friend Jean once told me a story about a friend of his, an architect. The friend had been invited by an acquaintance to his castle in Poitou. Upon arriving, he found a very old fortress that had been restored with great care and without altering the architecture one bit. The architect learned from his…

The Prophetic Chaplain of King Louis XI

The reign of Louis XI was dominated by his struggles against the Duke of Burgundy, his cousin. King Louis’ thoughts and preoccupations revolved entirely around France; how can he unite the disparate provinces under his scepter and create a state of order in the country that would meet the needs of his people? His cousin,…


Paris

Saturday, November 14, 2015. Paris, 8am. The morning after the attacks in Paris.   Love is spontaneity. Love is a desire. Love is universal. It concerns everyone and everything. This morning, after the horrors of the night in Paris, let love be felt by: – The victims and their friends and families, the grieving, the…

Bonaparte

My maternal family, the House of Orléans, hated Napoleon III. One of his first acts upon coming into power was to confiscate their fortune, to which the journalist Henri de Rochefort remarked, “C’est le premier vol de l’aigle.” (The play on words here cannot be translated into English, vol means both flight and theft in…

Belhomme’s Clinic

In the midst of the Terror, at a time when Parisians were laying low, afraid of falling victim to the revolutionaries, when a heavy atmosphere weighed down on the city and dread and anxiety suppressed all amusement, when shortages grew ever more dramatic and severe, there was at Charenton, a refuge, a haven where all the…

Family Portrait, XII

The life of Louis Philippe I, King of the French, reads like a novel. Born in 1773 during the reign of Louis XV, the young prince saw the Court of Versailles, Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette. He joined the ranks during the Revolution and became the youngest general in France. The son of a regicide, his…