The Raft of the Medusa, Art Driving Politics

Lead: Theodore Gericault (Tay aw DAWR ZHAY ree KOH), The Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819), depicted a human tragedy of epic proportions. It was a political embarrassment to the post-Napoleonic French monarchy.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Gericault’s painting, approximately 16 X 23 ft., hangs in the Louvre. It portrays the horrific experience of some of the survivors of the French frigate Medusa, which ran aground off the West African coast of Senegal in July 1816. The painting depicts suffering survivors on a drifting raft at sea. Medusa, carrying 400 passengers, was the flagship of a small fleet commissioned take back possession of the port of Saint-Louis after a period of occupation by the British.

 

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Eleanor of Aquitaine II

Lead: Turned out by one royal husband, the King of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine married his rival, the future King of England.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: Strong and independent, Eleanor resisted at each stage of her career the role of quiet docile wife. After a stormy fifteen years in 1152, Louis VII of France had their marriage annulled. Their four daughters remained with the King and Eleanor was sent home to Poitiers a very eligible lady, possibly the richest woman in Europe. Within two months she was married, this time to Henry Plantagenet, the namesake and grandson of the King of England who was at that time pressing his claim to inherit the Crown. A successful invasion of England and the death of his chief rival yielded him the throne. Henry and Eleanor became King and Queen of England in December 1154.

Eleanor of Aquitaine I

Lead: At her father's unexpected death in 1137, fifteen-year-old Eleanor, daughter of Duke Guillaume of Aquitaine, found herself heiress to a huge region of western France. It made one of the most eligible catches in Europe.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In a long and busy life Eleanor would be Queen of France and England, either marry or closely advise four kings, conduct romantic dalliances, engineer rebellions, rule England directly for long stretches of time and this in an era in which women were generally considered at best attractive appendages to their husbands and sons.

Madame Tussaud

Lead: Despite the advent of television and the internet, the biggest tourist attraction in Britain remains a bizarre collection of wax figures imported to England two centuries ago for a temporary stay.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Marie Tussaud (nee Grosholz) did her apprenticeship with Philippe Curtius in the heady revolutionary days of Paris, 1789. Crowds of the curious flocked to their salons to see exhibits featuring among other oddities, King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette eating their inedible dinner in frozen solitude. The most avid interest then and now continues to be the Chamber of Horrors, the waxed collection of notorious murderers caught in the act of taking their victims.

Agincourt II

Lead: Trapped by a huge French Army, the common soldiers of English King Henry V surprised even themselves with a stunning victory at Agincourt.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Essayist John Keegan writes that it is often not the great strategy of generals that decides the outcome of battle, but rather the actions of ordinary soldiers and the accidents of circumstance. This was certainly proven at Agincourt in October 1415. The English were in northern France pursuing their young King Henry V’s claim to the French throne, and they were blocked just short of the English-held port of Calais by as many as 25,000 French armored knights and infantry. Instead of surrendering, Henry turned to fight at the tiny village of Agincourt.

 

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Agincourt I

Lead: In the summer of 1415, against hopeless odds, the tiny army of King Henry V of England annihilated a much larger French Army near the village of Agincourt.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: For nearly a century after 1338, the English had been trying to take control of the French throne. The so-called Hundred Years War was at base a bloody dynastic dispute between the royal houses of two of Europe’s great powers. If England won, its King would rule both countries. If France won, the English would no longer hold territory on the Continent.

 

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History’s Turning Points: Ambitious Corporal II (Bonaparte)

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: the ambitious corpora1’s legacy.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: Napoleon Bonaparte was a daring and effective military commander, yet his lasting legacy may have been off the battlefield. He continued the destruction of aristocratic rule that began with the French Revolution in France and wherever his armies conquered. Though he created a modified aristocracy loyal to him and made himself Emperor of the French, this artifice collapsed when he was defeated and exiled. The Congress of Vienna 1815 tried to put the pieces back together again, but if anything the decades after Napoleon demonstrated a steady collapse of autocracy and the steady flowering of democracy.

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History’s Turning Points: Ambitious Corporal I (Bonaparte)

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: the ambitious corpora1.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: French historian and romantic author, Francois-René Vicomte Chateaubriand, wrote of Napoleon Bonaparte, “the mightiest breath of life which ever animated human clay.” He can be forgiven a flight of hyperbole, but for the first decade of the 19th century there is little doubt that Bonaparte straddled the wide continent of Europe virtually unimpeded. He was the Corsican corporal whose ambition made him Emperor of the French and whose military genius and daring shattered all before him. Yet, perhaps it was not his conquests which were fleeting or his empire which faded at his fall which set Napoleon firmly astride one of history’s great turning points. It was the system of aristocratic rule that he wounded, the legal system that he established wherever his armies conquered, and the dark and vicious concept of nationalism that lingered long after its author perished on St. Helena. Those things transformed him from transitory tyrant to a figure whose influence approaches the eternal.

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