Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Great NY Times article by T. M. Luhrmann (a contributing opinion writer and a professor of anthropology at Stanford.) T. M. Luhrmann
One of the greatest military leaders in history and emperor of France, he conquered much of Europe.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15 August 1769 in Corsica into a gentry family. Educated at military school, he was rapidly promoted and in 1796, was made commander of the French army in Italy, where he forced Austria and its allies to make peace. In 1798, Napoleon conquered Ottoman-ruled Egypt in an attempt to strike at British trade routes with India. He was stranded when his fleet was destroyed by the British at the Battle of the Nile.
France now faced a new coalition - Austria and Russia had allied with Britain. Napoleon returned to Paris where the government was in crisis. In a coup d'etat in November 1799, Napoleon became first consul. In 1802, he was made consul for life and two years later, emperor. He oversaw the centralisation of government, the creation of the Bank of France, the reinstatement of Roman Catholicism as the state religion and law reform with the Code Napoleon.
In 1800, he defeated the Austrians at Marengo. He then negotiated a general European peace which established French power on the continent. In 1803, Britain resumed war with France, later joined by Russia and Austria. Britain inflicted a naval defeat on the French at Trafalgar (1805) so Napoleon abandoned plans to invade England and turned on the Austro-Russian forces, defeating them at Austerlitz later the same year. He gained much new territory, including annexation of Prussian lands which ostensibly gave him control of Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Holland and Westphalia created, and over the next five years, Napoleon's relatives and loyalists were installed as leaders (in Holland, Westphalia, Italy, Naples, Spain and Sweden).
In 1810, he had his childless marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais annulled and married the daughter of the Austrian emperor in the hope of having an heir. A son, Napoleon, was born a year later.
The Peninsular War began in 1808. Costly French defeats over the next five years drained French military resources. Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 resulted in a disastrous retreat. The tide started to turn in favour of the allies and in March 1814, Paris fell. Napoleon went into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. In March 1815 he escaped and marched on the French capital. The Battle of Waterloo ended his brief second reign. The British imprisoned him on the remote Atlantic island of St Helena, where he died on 5 May 1821.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Both the English and French cycles of Arthurian Legend are dominated by three inter-related themes:
• The fellowship of the knights of the Round Table
• The quests for the Holy Grail (the Sangreal)
• The Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love-triangle
Throughout, Lancelot is arguably as important a figure as Arthur himself. In French versions of the legend more attention is focused on Sir Lancelot than on King Arthur, and the French - compared to their English counterparts - appeared to be interested in the balance between the spiritual dimension and the earthly. The character of Lancelot fitted the bill more readily than did the King, but ultimately, for all his 'noble chevalry', Lancelot remains a figure of tragic failure.
In summary: Sir Lancelot is regarded as the first and greatest of King Arthur's legendary knights. Son of King Ban of Benoic (anglicized as Benwick) and Queen Elaine, he is known as Lancelot of the Lake (or Lancelot du Lac) because he was raised by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake. His knightly adventures include the rescue of Queen Guineverefrom the evil Méléagant, a failed quest for the Holy Grail, and a further rescue of Guinevere after she is condemned to be burned at the stake for adultery (with him). Lancelot is also loved by Elaine of Astolat (the daughter of King Pelles) who dies of grief because her love is unrequited. Another Elaine (Elaine of Corbenic) tricks him - apparently he thought she was Guinevere - into sleeping with her (and begetting Galahad). His long relationship with the real Guinevere ultimately brings about the destruction of King Arthur's realm.
Le Chevalier de la Charrette
Sir Lancelot first appears in Arthurian legend in 'Le Chevalier de la Charrette', one of a set of five Arthurian romances written by the French poet Chrétien de Troyes (completed by Godefroy de Lagny) as a large collection of verses, c.1180 to 1240. Lancelot is characterised alongside other knights, notably Gawain, Kay, and Méléagant (or Meliagaunce) - a consistent rival and parallel anti-hero against Lancelot - and is already heavily involved in his legendary romance with Guinevere, King Arthur's queen.
The dual role of (i) superb knight-at-arms and (ii) enduring, courtly lover defines Lancelot's legendary gallantry. The incongruous notion of the super-hero resorting to a 'charrette' (cart) arises when Guinevere was abducted by Méléagant (the son of King Bagdemagus). Lancelot - hesitatingly at first, to Guinevere's later disgust - pursued him in a cart driven by a dwarf. The episode culminates in Lancelot's 'crossing of the Sword Bridge': a bridge consisting from end to end of a sharply honed blade. Ultimately it is Lancelot's character - the epitome of constancy and obedience to love - which is the key to his defeat of Méléagant and the self-love, treachery, and cruelty which he personified.
During the ensuing combat between Lancelot and Méléagant (which Lancelot came close to losing because he could not stop gazing upon her - he collected himself just in time) King Bagdemagus successfully pleaded with Guinevere to stop the fight so his son's life could be spared. Lancelot was forced to defend her honour a second time, when Méléagant later accused her of an affair with Kay, and once again Bagdemagus successfully pleaded for his son. Lancelot finally slew Méléagant in combat at King Arthur's court, and his literary reputation as chivalric hero and arch-exemplar of 'saver-of-damsels-from-distress' was sealed.
The origin of the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere
Chrétien de Troyes composed 'Le Chevalier de la Charrette' at the request of the Countess Marie de Champagne, daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, then later the wife of Henry II of England. It was apparently written to foster the notion of the 'Courts of Love' as the principal settings for (adulterous) social relations rather than the spontaneous passion typified by the story of Tristan and Iseult. Like other courtly ladies of the day, Guinevere required a lover, and the literary Lancelot - a convenient and suitable hero - was pressed into service.
Lancelot in the Vulgate Cycle
'Lancelot en Prose' - The Vulgate Cycle - is a comprehensive trilogy ('Lancelot Propre', 'La Queste del Saint Graal', and 'La Mort de Roi Artu'), believed to have been compiled by Cistercian monks between 1215 and 1235 and which mark the transition between verse and prose versions of the Arthurian legend.
The authors contrasted earthly chivalry with spiritual chivalry idealized in the Quest for the Sangreal. Sir Lancelot is 'the best knight in the world' but cannot succeed in that quest, which is eventually achieved by his son, the virgin knight Sir Galahad. The blame for the destruction of the Round Table is placed firmly on Lancelot and his affair with Guinevere - which started with a kiss and is supposedly the story which, in 'Dante's Inferno', Francesca tells Dante that she and her lover Paolo were reading when they exchanged their first kiss: "That day we read no further".
In 'Lancelot en Prose' the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere began through a series of stories culminating in his knighting at Arthur's court and his falling secretly in love with the queen. Guinevere knows of his love but the affair is not consummated until Galehaut, King of the Long Isles and Lord of Surluse, makes war on Arthur - who would have lost his kingdom except for the feats of arms of an unknown knight in black armour who comes to Arthur's aid at the last moment. Galehaut is so impressed by the Black Knight that he befriends him and at the knight's request agrees to make peace with Arthur. Because the knight is often red-eyed from sadness, Galehaut discovers the secret of his love for Arthur's queen, and out of friendship for the (still un-named) knight he arranges a meeting between him and Guinevere.
According to a translation by Carleton W. Carroll, Galehaut says "My lady, I ask that you give (the knight) your love, and that you take him as your knight forevermore, and become his loyal lady for all the days of your life, and you will have made him richer than if you had given him the whole world."
The Queen replied, "In that case, I grant that he should be entirely mine and I entirely his..." and at Galehaut's behest she gave Lancelot a prolonged kiss. Galehaut then asked her for the Black Knight's companionship.
"Indeed," she replied, "if you didn't have that, then you would have profited little by the great sacrifice you made for him." Then she took the knight by the right hand and said, "Galehaut, I give you this knight forevermore, except for what I have previously had of him. And you," she said to the knight, "give your solemn word on this." And the Lancelot did so. "Now do you know," she said to Galehaut, "whom I have given you?"
"My lady, I do not."
"I have given you Lancelot of the Lake, the son of King Ban of Benoic."
Guinevere had finally revealed Lancelot's identity to Galehaut, whose joy was "the greatest he had ever known" for he had heard many rumours that this was Lancelot of the Lake and that he was the finest knight in the world, though landless, and he knew that King Ban had been a very noble man.
In the Vulgate Cycle's 'La Mort de Roi Artu' Arthur's army lays siege to Lancelot in his castle Joyous Garde, inspired by Gawain's desire for revenge for the slaying of his brothers in Lancelot's rescue of Guinevere. The subsequent combat between Lancelot and Gawain is one of the most dramatic in Arthurian Legend and signifies pure blood revenge rather than the notion of the romantic duel. In contrast, Lancelot's reluctance to dispatch his old friend remains firmly in the chivalric tradition.
The Vulgate Cycle was an important source for Sir Thomas Malory in his Le Morte d'Arthur (1485) and which he refered to as "the French book".
Lancelot in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur
Malory frees Lancelot (which he spells as "Launcelot") from much of the spiritual passion seen in the Vulgate Cycle - instead he emphasizes Lancelot's relative success, not his ultimate failure, and the passion between the two erstwhile lovers is restrained.
Le Morte d'Arthur was published by William Caxton as 21 books; Sir Lancelot first appears, briefly, in Book II, when the wizard Merlin prophesies that "Here in this place (editor's note: a church near Camelot) shall be the greatest battle between two knights that there ever was or ever shall be, and yet the truest lovers, neither shall slay the other" and (editor's note: written by Merlin on the pommel of the dead Balin's sword) "No man shall handle this sword except the best knight in the world, and that will be Sir Launcelot or else Galahad his son, and with it Launcelot shall slay the man he loved best in the world, and that will be Sir Gawain."
Lancelot is gradually aggrandised by Malory up to 'The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake' (Book VI) in which he declares his love for Guinevere (spelt by Malory as "Gwenyvere"). Thereafter (very briefly): he dubs Gareth knight (Book VII - 'The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney'). In 'The Tale of Sir Tristram de Liones' (Book VIII) Lancelot suffers calumny from King Mark because of his friendship with Tristram, and rescues Gawain. He befriends La Cote Male Taile, rescues him, and establishes him Lord of Pendragon (Book IX), then jousts with Tristram and Palomides. Later (Book XI), Lancelot is tricked and drugged into sleeping with Elaine (de Corbenic), thinking her Guinevere, and begets Galahad. Guinevere is angry but he finds himself with Elaine again, who is sent away and he goes mad.
A now insane Lancelot (Book XII) attacks a knight and scares his lady in the pavilion, but the knight, Bliant, takes the sleeping Lancelot to his castle to cure him. Healed by the Saint Grail, Lancelot returns with Elaine to her father's castle. Later he is persuaded by Ector to return to Arthur's court. Lancelot dubs his son Galahad knight (Book XIII). The knights go on a quest of the Sangreal but Lancelot confesses sin. He has a vision (Book XV) in which he joins the black (sinful) knights against the white (pure) knights. He falls into his old adulterous ways with Guinevere (Book XVIII) who is accused of poisoning a knight at a feast. Lancelot returns to defend her, wearing the sleeve of Elaine of Astolat (much to Guinevere's annoyance). He is wounded and Elaine dies for love of him.
Meliagaunt (Méléagant) abducts Guinevere (Book XIX), Lancelot gives succour, lies with her, and is trapped. He cures King Urre. Then he and Guinevere are discovered "in flagrante" (Book XX), after which he slays a number of knights, (including Agravain who betrayed him). Lancelot and friends rescue the queen from the stake. Gawain and knights make war on Lancelot who slays Gareth. Finally (Book XI) he and Guinevere part for the very last time, then he goes to Glastonbury and becomes a monk.
[ See also a summary of Le Morte d'Arthur ]
The Lancelot who occupies Malory's stage is "the fyrste knyght that the Frey[n]sh booke makyth me[n]cion of aftir kynge Arthure com from Rome." He is no longer the romantic hero characterised in forgoing French versions of Arthurian Legend - his excellence springs from his fighting prowess and noble deeds. Far from needing to prove himself to a Guinevere whom he already loves, he reveres her above all others only in response to her admiration and honouring of his matchless proficiency as a knight. Throughout most of Malory's tale Lancelot consistently denies that he and she are lovers: not exactly the stuff of high romance.
Tournaments, battles, and adventures remain at the forefront of Lancelot's priorities, necessitating a single state rather than the married one which would be bound to thwart the pursuit of an adventurous knighthood. Through the persona of Lancelot (and indeed through the foundation and eventual decline of the noble fellowship of the Round Table, not to mention the metaphorical passing of the seasons) Malory contrasts the prized medieval virtues of constancy and steadfastness with the inevitable rise and fall of the stable order of things. Lancelot, in particular, appears to symbolise on the one hand - in his innocence - the achievement of a certain kind of order, and on the other - in his ultimate sufferings - the tragic real-world truth that all good things come to an end.
See also Arthurian Legend homepage.
Copyright © 2004-2014 Patrick Taylor
Napoleon Bonaparte was born the 15th of August, 1769 on Corsica, just three months after the island had been defeated by the French. He would spend his childhood hating France, the nation he would one day rule.
"I was born when [Corsica] was perishing. Thirty thousand Frenchmen spewed on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood... The cries of the dying, the groans of the oppressed and tears of despair surrounded my cradle from the hour of my birth."After the French victory, many Corsican rebels fled to the mountains, where they continued to fight on. But Napoleon’s father Carlo, a twenty-three year-old university student, readily submitted to French rule. Soon he was wearing powdered wigs, embroidered waistcoats, and silver buckled shoes. The Bonapartes were Corsican aristocrats, but they were not rich. With eight children, they struggled just to get by on an island that had been impoverished for centuries.
Napoleon never forgave his father for betraying his Corsican heritage. He would later say harshly that Carlo was rather "too fond of pleasure."
His mother, Letizia, was a hard, austere woman, toughened by war, who punished her children to teach them sacrifice and discipline.
"She sometimes made me go to bed without supper, as if there were nothing to eat in the house. One had to learn to suffer and not let others see it."As a representative of the Corsican parliament, Carlo travelled to Versailles. There, he saw the splendor of the French court in all its majesty, and he worked to secure Napoleon a scholarship to Brienne, a private academy in France.
Napoleon set foot in France for the first time in the winter of 1778, a thin, sallow nine year-old, accustomed to the warmth of the Mediterranean, suddenly alone on the windswept plains of northern France. He could hardly speak French.
CARRINGTON: When he was in school in Brienne in continental France, where he was very much laughed at and bullied for being a barbarous Corsican, he dreamt all the time of…liberating Corsica. But he did something quite exceptional. He conquered his conquerors. He got the better of the French.
"Always alone among men, I come home to dream by myself and to give myself over to all the forces of my melancholy," Napoleon wrote. "My thoughts dwell on death... What fury drives me to wish for my own destruction? No doubt because I see no place for myself in this world."Then the French Revolution changed everything. Bonaparte was twenty-three when he took leave of absence from the French army and returned to Corsica an idealistic revolutionary. The French Republic had made Corsica a part of France, and given Corsicans all the rights and liberties of French citizens. Bonaparte, a lieutenant in the island’s National Guard, threw himself into Corsican politics.
Bonaparte soon became the leader of a faction opposed to the island’s governor Pasquale Paoli. The Corsican patriot thought Bonaparte too ambitious, too self-centered, too sympathetic to France.
The Corsican Assembly declared Bonaparte and his entire family "traitors and enemies of the Fatherland, condemned to perpetual execration and infamy." Bonaparte no longer had the right to live in Corsica. He had been given a death sentence by his own people.
On June 10, 1793 he set sail for France with his widowed mother, three brothers and three sisters – a refugee family carrying with them all they owned in the world. Twenty-four years old, he was banished from the land of his birth forever.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Friday, February 14, 2014
The Second book in Gillian Bradshaw's HAWK OF MAY: DOWN THE LONG WIND series, tells the tale of King Arthur's England through the eyes of Gwalchmai's servent, Rhys ap Sion.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Sir Launcelot and the Queen Talked Sadly Together
CharactersName Variants: Guenevere, Ginevra, Gwenhwyfar, Gaynor, Guanhumara, Guennivar, Ganore, Guenever, WaynorBackground Essay Author: Alan Lupack
Guinevere is said to be the daughter of Leodegrance of Cameliard in late medieval romance. In many sources, she marries Arthur and then has a love affair with Lancelot which causes the downfall of Camelot.
The Welsh Triads speak of "Arthur's Three Great Queens," all named Gwenhwyfar (Triad 56) and name Gwenhwyfar as "more faithless" than the three faithless wives of the Island of Britain (Triad 80). One of the earliest Arthurian stories is about the abduction of Guinevere by Meleagant (or Melyagaunce or Melwas). The story is told in The Life of St. Gildas (c. 1130) by Caradoc of Llancarfan and in the Welsh "Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhwyfar." It is the subject of the earliest known Arthurian sculpture on the archivolt of the Porta della Pescheria on the Modena Cathedral. The story of the abduction is the central action in Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot and appears in Malory.
Geoffrey of Monmouth introduces the notion of Guinevere’s infidelity (with Modred) while Arthur is fighting on the continent. In the twelfth-century Rise of Gawain, Arthur’s wife is called Gwendoloena and is said to have been initiated into sorcery and to be able to divine the future.
In Chrétien’s Lancelot, Guinevere becomes Lancelot’s lover after he rescues her from Meleagant. She is a demanding courtly lover; for example, she refuses to see Lancelot after he has suffered greatly in saving her because he hesitated two steps before leaping into a cart on his quest to rescue her, thus suggesting that his love was not absolute. But she loves deeply and contemplates suicide when she hears rumors of Lancelot’s death.
Although generally in the romance tradition, Guinevere is portrayed as Lancelot’s lover, that is not the case in Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet. Ginover, who fails the chastity test of the mantle, she is said to have erred only in thought. The nature of those thoughts is not revealed, but she and Arthur have a son and seem to be happily married. And she is an intimate friend of Lanzelet’s beloved Yblis. Lanzelet does champion Ginover, but when she is abducted by Valerin, Arthur leads the expedition to rescue her and Lanzelet plays only a minor role.
In the Vulgate Cycle, the first meeting between Guinevere and Lancelot is arranged by Galehaut, and Guinevere subsequently arranges for Galehaut and the Lady of Malehaut to become lovers. She is later accused of not being the true Guinevere by the illegitimate daughter of her father Leodagan and the wife of his seneschal. When Arthur falls in love with the False Guinevere and accepts her as his queen, Guinevere is protected by Lancelot and Galehaut until the truth is revealed. Lancelot assists Guinevere again by rescuing her when she is abducted by Meleagant. In the Mort Artu, after Guinevere is found to be Lancelot’s lover and condemned to be burned to death, Lancelot rescues her again and takes her to Joyous Guard, but the Pope demands that Arthur be reconciled with her. When Arthur leaves for France to attack Lancelot, Mordred tries to claim the throne and to marry Guinevere. She flees to the Tower of London and then, when Arthur returns, to a convent, where she dies.
Malory’s Guinevere is jealous and demanding but also a true lover. Her jealousy and anger drive Lancelot mad and lead her to say she wishes he were dead. Nevertheless, she remains true to him. She is accused several times of crimes—infidelity and the murder of Mador’s relative—and must be saved by Lancelot, as she is once again when their love is discovered and she is sentenced to be burned at the stake. When Mordred rebels against Arthur and attempts to marry her, she flees first to the Tower of London and then to the nunnery at Amesbury, where she becomes abbess. Lancelot visits her there after the death of Arthur, but she asks him to leave and never to return and refuses even to give him a final kiss. She dies a holy death, of which Lancelot learns in a vision that instructs him to have her buried next to Arthur.
While Malory is understanding of the true love of Guinevere, Tennyson makes her an example of an unfaithful wife. His Guinevere believes that "He is all fault who hath no fault at all" and wants her lover to "have a touch of earth." Arthur, before whom she grovels with guilt when he visits her in the nunnery, says that she has "spoilt the purpose of my life." Nevertheless, Tennyson does bring Guinevere and other female characters to the fore, as does one of his contemporaries, William Morris. In his poem "The Defence of Guenevere," Morris is the first to give the Queen her own voice, thus beginning a tradition that is continued in Sara Teasdale's poem "Guenevere," Dorothy Parker's "Guinevere at Her Fireside," and Wendy Mnookin's collection Guenever Speaks, as well as in many contemporary novels told from Guinevere's point of view, such as Parke Godwin's Beloved Exile and Persia Wooley's Guinevere trilogy.