The Blogger Recognition Award


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Blogger Recognition

I wish to thank bonjourberlin for nominating me for the Blogger Recognition award. It is a privilege to know that one’s contribution to blogosphere is appreciated.

In return I would like to thank all my readers for their wonderful posts. I keep learning and I love your art, your poems, your thoughts, all that you share with us.

Blogger Recognition Award

The following is one of my favourite movements in music: the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. It is played by the Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by the now legendary Herbert von Karajan.


© Micheline Walker
12 February 2016



Islamic Art


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DT4800 (1).jpgPrince Riding an Elephant, painting by Khem Karan, 16th–17th century, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

This is such a cheerful painting. It’s a watercolour, but an opaque watercolour. After stretching his wet paper, the artist allowed it to dry before applying colours.

“Prince Riding an Elephant” is simply delightful.

Today, I am posting images depicting a playful Islam. Some of these images you have already seen. They are simply favourite images.

Princely Couple, Iran (1400-1405)
The Lovers, painting by Riza-yi `Abbasi (ca. 1565–1635)
The Stallion, painting by Habibalah of Save (active ca. 1590-1610)
Portrait of a Dervish, 16th century
Portrait of Muhammad Khan Shaibani, the Uzbek (d.1510)
Black Stork in a Landscape, 1780
Portrait of a Lady Holding a Flower, painting by Muhammadi of Herat (active Qazvin, c. 1570-1578; Herat, c. 1578-87)

(Please click on the titles above to obtain further information.)




Dance performance by Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam, dancer, choreographer, actor in La Comédie-Française.
Sohrab and Gordafarid


© Micheline Walker
12 February 2016

Islam: Power as Motivation


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Syria (BBC/Reuters)


A few weeks ago, I attempted to publish a post on the Syrian Civil War. I was at a bit of a loss, but one of our colleagues suggested helpful reading. I thank him sincerely.

The link below leads to a brief account of the war in Syria, produced by the BBC. It is not as fresh an account as I would like it to be, but it is a concise and, I believe, accurate account.

A Literal vs a Liberal Interpretation

Canada has been welcoming refugees from Syria. However, the Civil War in Syria is part of a larger problem and it has multiple origins, not all of which constitute interference and intervention on the part of the West. Much of this problem is endemic as many of these countries are autocracies where law is faith and faith is law. It’s called the Sharia law and it may be applied to oppress the innocent and the powerless who should be protected under the terms of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, it can be extremely useful to dictators as well as terrorist organizations. They can destroy lives with a clear conscience by choosing a literal, not to say distorted, interpretation of Sharia law.

That is how countries in the Midde East differ from one another. Some countries choose a liberal interpretation of Sharia law. Some don’t. If the power of a leader is threatened, a literal reading of Sharia law may save him. He clamps down. In other words, the countries of the Middle East are autocracies buttressed by a legal system that is also a religion and, in certain countries, such as Saudi Arabia, empowered by money. Petrolium is a product other countries need.

Let’s take a closer look.


 A Stallion, painting by Habibalah of Save (active ca. 1590-1610) Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


Lady Holding a Flower, painting by Muhammadi of Herat (active Qazvin, c. 1570-1578; Herat, c. 1578-87) Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

(for further information, please click on the titles below)
The Stallion, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of a Lady Holding a Flower, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Arab Spring

  • The Islamic Revolution (late 1970s-  early 1980s)
  • The Arab Spring (2010)

The Arab Spring is our starting-point. The Arab Spring was a series of uprisings that started on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia, with the Tunisian Revolution. Muslims attacked autocracy much as it was attacked at the time of the Islamic Revolution (late 1970s early 1980s). But unlike the Islamic Revolution, which saw the demise of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Arab Spring did not invite the atavistic Islamism that has led to the growth of Isil/Daesh and the frenzied use of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia.

On the contrary, the Arab Spring invited a more liberal interpretation of Islam’s sacred texts. Religious texts are open to interpretation. They demand exegesis which is “a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, particularly a religious text.” (See Exegesis, Wikipedia.) The response to the Arab Spring was not “a critical explanation or interpretation of a text,” the Qur’an and the Hadith, but a stricter interpretation of a text.

Justice, real justice, can be served without beheadings, mutilation, torture and wrongful detention. On 21 August 2013, Bashar al-Assad allegedly ordered the use of a chemical weapon, sarin, that killed hundreds of innocent Syrians and, among them, many children. The victims may have been Sunni Muslims, but although he is an Alawite Shiite, Assad is westernized and he is married to the British-born daughter of Sunni Muslims whom he met when he was studying ophthalmology in London.

His reaction was not that of a God-loving Alawite Shia Muslim, but that of a despot. Assad dug in his heels to protect his position as President of Syria. He could have introduced some measure of democracy, but he chose otherwise and he seems to have relinquished part of Syria to the so-called Islamic State, or was it taken from him?

Members of Daesh/Isil behead, mutilate, stone to death, burn people alive, drown people alive. They crucify, torture, enslave, rape, &c, on what is still Syrian soil. How can the people of Syria survive wedged between attacks from rebel factions and raids by Daesh? Allah does not approve.

Sharia Law

  • Raif Badawi.
  • Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Consequently, although it may seem like a pious observance of Islam’s laws, the imprisonment of Raif Badawi and the execution in early January 2016 of Sheik Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other detainees, was not altogether deference to a prophet. King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a Whahhabi Sunni Muslim, was protecting his absolute monarchy and to do so, he put Sharia law into his own service: to rule unopposed. Raif Badawi, a Shia Muslim, imprisoned and he may be flogged again because he asked for more liberalism in Saudi Arabia. In fact, Raif Badawi may be executed. He has been moved to an area of the prison in which he is held where detainees await execution. Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was also advocating more tolerance, but loudly.

As I suggested above, sharia law is a gift to dogmatic leaders in the Arab world. Making conflicts look sectarian also benefits our belligerents: Sunnis are battling Shiites and Shiites are battling Sunnis, Islam’s two main branches is very useful. It takes blame away from perpetrators. They keep Sharia law at their fingertips. Sharia law is the mask behind which these tyrants stand.

If one has read Molière’s Tartuffe (1664 to 1669), one knows that Tartuffe’s devotion is a mask he wears to seduce Orgon’s wife, using casuistry. Orgon is the name of the head of the household. All members of Orgon’s family know that Tartuffe is an impostor, but Orgon needs someone who can take sin out of sinning, which is Sharia law‘s main virtue. Tartuffe makes is possible for Orgon to be a tyrant. So does Sharia law.


The debate has been to determine whether the conflicts in the Middle East are secular (wordly) rather than sectarian (religious). In the Middle East, were it possible, separating faith and fate would probably help quell atrocities. But it would have to come from within. As noted above, to a large extent, Sharia law is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But it appears we have a new Hitler. 

Hitler invaded other countries and killed 6,000,000 Jews as well as people he looked upon as ‘abnormal’, by his standard. At this point, I find it very difficult not to compare the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis to atrocities perpetrated by Isil/Daesh. Nazism was a cancer and so is Daesh/Isil.

So far, fewer people have died in the conflict in Syria than Jews in Hitler’s death camps, but the life of those who have fled has been taken from them. Various countries are taking in refugees, but refugees have lost their home.

In short, although the West went on Crusades in the Middle East, although Western countries were “protectorates” and partitioned Palestine as if it were theirs to partition, at the centre of crises in the Middle East is a thirst for power and for blood. Lives do not matter. Limbs do not matter, and Allah is a mere tool in the hands of tyrants, which is a sin.

However, it remains our duty to let the countries of the Middle East determine their future, to respect their wish for self-determination as well as their culture, when it does not infringe upon basic human rights, formulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A new Hitler and rekindled Fascism.

We do have a new Hitler and rekindled fascism: Isil/Daesh, that must be neutralized or eliminated. In an earlier post, I suggested starvation: no weapons, no food &c.  Others probably have better solutions than my humble: don’t give them weapons.

Therefore, allow me to repeat that the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching can be encapsulated in his “mercy to all the creation.”


With my kindest regards to everyone. 


Dance performance by Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam, dancer, choreographer, actor in La Comédie-Française
‘Faryad’ from “Dance variations on Persian themes”

© Micheline Walker
10 February 2016


The Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War


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 John the Fearless (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

The painting above is a fine portrait of John the Fearless. The Wikipedia entry does not give the name of the artist, but it could be Rogier van der Weyden. Would that I could explain the symbolism. Why the brooch, the necklace, and, especially, the ring? This is a portrait to remember.

The Armagnac-Burgundian Civil war (1407 -1435)

  • The Civil War begins in 1407, when Louis I, Duke of Orleans is assassinated
  • John the Fearless is assassinated in 1419
  • the Civil War ends in 1435, at the Congress of Arras

Although, we are changing topic after this post, a correction is needed. I found a tiny mistake, a detail, while researching the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War. It has to do with dates. The correction is that the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War did not start when John the Fearless was assassinated in 1419. It started in 1407, when John the Fearless ordered thugs to assassinate Louis I, Duke of Orleans, King Charles IV’s brother.

In an earlier post, I wrote that, rumour has it that Louis, Duke of Orleans fathered Charles VII, his nephew, which could be the case. Isabeau de Bavière was married to Charles VI, the ‘Mad’ King of France, and Louis of Orleans, was a profligate prince. It would appear, that Charles VI knew he had been betrayed.

As we have seen, in an earlier post, Charles VI disinherited Charles VII (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461), twice. Charles VII was disinherited after the assassination of John the Fearless and was again disinherited by virtue of the Treaty of Troyes, signed in 1420. Under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, not only did Charles VI disinherit his son, but he also agreed to marry his daughter, Catherine de Valois, to Henry V, King of England.

Charles was ‘mad,’ but how mad can one be?

Had Henry VI’s (b. 1421) succeeded in claiming the throne of France, he would have been a legitimate King of France, but not in the eyes of the people of France. They looked upon Charles VII as the rightful successor to Charles VI.

In short, the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War started in 1407, when John the Fearless had masked men assassinate Louis I, Duke of OrleansLouis I, Duke of Orleans was the King’s brother and Charles, Duke of Orleans’ father. In 1410, Charles married Bonne d’Armagnac, the daughter of Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac (1360 – 1418) who was also Constable of France (connétable). Charles d’Orléans was captured at the Battle of Agincourt, fought in 1415, and detained in England for 25 years. (See Related Articles, below.)

The Civil War ended at the Congress of Arras, in 1435, when the Burgundians recognized Charles VII as King of France.


Assassination of the Duke of Burgundy, John the Fearless, on the Bridge of Montereau, in 1419. — facsimile of a miniature in the “Chronicles” of Monstrelet, manuscript of the fifteenth century, in the Library of the Arsenal of Paris.



Charles VII by Jean Fouquet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Tale of Two Kings

  • Joan of Arc
  • Charles VII, King of France, crowned on 17 July 1429
  • Henry VI of England, heir to the throne of France, but crowned in December 1431

In 1429, after La Hire, Dunois, and other officers lifted the Siege of Orleans, Joan of Arc took Charles VII to Reims Cathedral, where he was crowned on 17 July 1429. Charles VI had died in 1422, so there had not been a King of France for seven years. Henry VI, however was crowned at Notre-Dame de Paris on 26 December 1431, which means that, by 1431, there was a second King of France who was also King of England. He had been crowned at Westminster Abbey on 6 November 1429.

The people of France looked upon Charles VII as their King because he was the son of Charles VI, or so it seemed. Joan of Arc did save France. Had she not intervened, France could have become an English kingdom.[1]

Maître de Boucicault (Charles VI)
Anon. (Philip the Bold)
Rogier van der Weyden (Philip the Good)
Rogier van der Weyden, disputed (John the Fearless)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Support for the Treaty of Troyes; Misery for Charles VII

  1. Charles VII was disinherited because he assassinated John Fearless, his uncle and his father’s (Charles VI) cousin. Moreover, if the rumour is true, and it seems to be true, Louis d’Orléans was Charles VII‘s son, not Charles VI. Historically, Charles VII was disinherited by virtue of the Treaty of Troyes, signed at Troyes (France) in 1420.
  2. Isabeau de Bavière, his mother, was in attendance when the Treaty of Troyes was signed. She disinherited her son. 
  3. The Estate General ratified the Treaty of Troyes when Henry V, King of England and heir to the throne of France entered Paris.
  4. Charles VII was found guilty of treason, lèse-majesté, in a 1421 lit-de-justice, a court, he did not attend. The court “sentenced him to disinheritance and banishment from the Kingdom of France, losing all privileges to land and titles.” (See Charles VII, Wikipedia.)
  5. The terms of the Treaty of Troyes were later confirmed by the Treaty of Amiens (1423), when Burgundy and Brittany confirmed the recognition of Henry VI of England as King of France and agreed to form a triple-defensive alliance against the Dauphin (heir) Charles VII.
  6. Despite his being duly-crowned King of France at Reims, on 17 July 1429, Charles VII was called, pejoratively, “roi de Bourges.

Rogier van der Weyden miniature 1447-8. Philip dresses his best, in an extravagant chaperon, to be presented with a History of Hainault by the author, flanked by his son Charles and his chancellor Nicolas Rolin. (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)


There would be further claims to the kingdom of France, based on the Treaty of Troyes, but the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War improved the relationship between two French Royal Houses. During the Midde Ages, Burgundy and surrounding areas were the hub of European culture, particularly in the area of music: the Franco-Flemish School. One Burgundian was Jean de France, duc de Berry (d. 1416) who loved the arts and commissioned the Belles Heures du duc de Berry and the Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry.

The Burgundians who ruled during Charles VI minority were: Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; John, Duke of Berry; Louis I, Duke of Anjou; and Louis II, Duke of Bourbon. They were Charles V‘s brothers and the children of John II of France. Philip the Bold was  John the Fearless’ father, and John the Fearless was succeeded by Philip the Good.



My kindest regards to all of you.

[1] (See Treaty of Troyes and The Dual-Monarchy of England and France, Wikipedia.) (See Britannica)


© Micheline Walker
6 February 2016




From Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day, cont’d


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Presentation_of_Christ_in_the_TemplePresentation of Christ in the Temple, from the Sherbrooke Missal c. 1310 – c. 1320
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Today is Candlemas, now better known as “grounhog day” or “pancake day.” When I was a child, Candlemas, la Chandeleur, was a religious holiday that was also a festival of lights: la fête des lumières. We didn’t know it was groundhog day, nor did we know it was pancake day. We lived in the very Catholic province of Quebec, which was then a priest-ridden province and is now, otherwise ridden.

However, times have changed. In Quebec, today is le jour de la marmotte and la fête des crêpes. Quebec has therefore caught up to the rest of the world. Apparently, Groundhog Day is a German tradition. (See Groundhog Day, Wikipedia.) Ironically , it could be that many Quebecers do not remember la Chandeleur, or Candlemas.

Candlemas commemorated and still commemorates:

  • the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
  • the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin
  • the Meeting of the Lord (see Simeon, Gospel of Luke, Wikipedia)

Saint Gelasius I

  • St Gelasius
  • a commemoration
  • the seasons

We owe Candlemas to Pope Gelasius I who died in Rome on the 19 November c. 496 CE and is now a saint. Saint Gelasius wanted to replace Lupercalia, a disorderly pagan feast with a Christian feast, celebrated about 12 days later than 2 February. It was Candlemas, which eventually would take place on 2 February, according to the Gregorian calendar. Most Christian feasts are celebrated on the same day as a pagan feast and they inaugurate or close a season, the four seasons and liturgical seasons.

Humans have also celebrated the day of the longest night, the winter Solstice, and the day of the longest day, the summer Solstice. They have also celebrated the days when day and night are the same length: equinoctial points, or an Equinox.  This is the logic according to which Christian feasts are celebrated. It is a matter of season and one of continuity.

In 2016, solstices and equinoctial points are on:

Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, near the winter Solstice.
Easter is a movable feast, near the spring Equinox, 27 April 2016.
St John’s Day is celebrated on 24 June, near the summer Solstice.
Michaelmas is celebrated on 29 September, near the fall Equinox.

Easter is the only movable feast, but it occurs near the vernal equinox. As for Candlemas, it is celebrated on 2 February and is a festival of lights or la Fête des lumières. It closes Epiphany Season and introduces a new Marian antiphon: Ave, Regina Cælorum, of which there are four. Moreover, it is the day when the canticle entitled Nunc Dimittis (Now let me leave) is sung. Antiphons are call and respond songs: a responsory, but canticles are songs of praise, such as the Magnificat.

Beginning today the Marian antiphon is the Ave Regina Cælorum. It will last until Good Friday.

Simeon’s Song of Praise by Aert de Gelder,
around 1700–1710 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Canticle of Simeon or the Nunc Dimittis

According to the book of Luke (Luke 2:29-32), Simeon, a devout Jew, had been promised by the Holy Ghost that he would see the Saviour before his death. He recognized Jesus when he was brought to the Temple for the ceremony of the Presentation of the first-born son. Having seen Jesus, a Jew, with his own eyes, he sang a canticle in which he says that now (nunc) he could leave: “Now let me leave…”

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Book of Common Prayer,

The Houghton ms Richardson, Harvard (c. 1400)

The Ave, Regina Cælorum is as follows:

Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn
Whence the world’s true light was born:

Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see;
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

V. Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.

(See Raphael & Marian Liturgy at Notre-Dame de Paris)


There are equinoctial tides that occur near the time of an equinox. In France, they are called marées d’équinoxe. They were spectacular where I lived in Normandy. One could not see the water from the shore. When the water returned, it did rapidly. Sheep grazed on the prés salés (salted meadows), called présalés, at Mont-Saint-Michel. It could be that the tides brought the salt. Before or after walking to the Abbey, we would eat crêpes. There was a lovely restaurant at the foot of the hill. Sometimes we drove to Saint-Malô to eat crêpes. Tides occurring on solstices are less dramatic than equinoctial tides.

The Christian seasons are also called “tides:” Christmastide, Epiphanytide, Eastertide, etc. Christianity has more seasons than nature’s four seasons. We are not entering a tide, but an Ordinary Time that will end on Ash Wednesday (10 February, this year) or Pentecost. (See Eastertide, Wikipedia.)

The RELATED ARTICLES, listed below, will lead you to all relevant posts and songs.


Kindest regards to everyone.



© Micheline Walker
2 February 2016




From Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day


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Capitoline Wolf. Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Recent studies suggest that the wolf may be a medieval sculpture dating from the 13th century AD.

Romulus and Remus suckling Lupa (Photo credit: Google Images)

This post was published in 2013.  My new post on Candlemas is a continuation of this older article.

The above image shows Romulus and Remus, born to Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia and the god Mars or the demi-God HerculesAmulius had seized power from his brother Numitor and had forced Rhea Silvia, Numitor’s daughter, to become a Vestal Virgin so she would not bear children.

After the birth of Romulus and Remus, Amulius threw the babies into the river Tiber and sent their mother to jail.  However, Romulus and Remus were saved by shepherds and fed by a she-wolf, Lupa, in a cave called Lupercal, perhaps located at the foot of Palatine Hill.  They were then discovered by Faustulus, a shepherd.

The feral twins killed Amulius when they learned about their mother, but Romulus killed Remus who wanted Rome founded on Aventile Hill rather than Palatine Hill.  Whence, the existence of Lupercus (from lupus: wolf), the Roman god of shepherds, and that of the Lupercalia, a yearly Roman festival honoring Lupa.

Romulus and Remus being given shelter by Faustulus, oil by Pietro da Cortona.

Romulus and Remus being given shelter by Faustulus, oil by Pietro da Cortona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lupercalia & Candlemas

In ancient Rome, the Lupercalia (Lupercus) took place between February 13th and 15th.  This “pagan” feast is sometimes associated with Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, using the Gregorian calendar as opposed to the Julian calendar, called O.S., old style.  In the Gregorian calendar, feasts were celebrated about 12 days earlier, than in the Julian calendar. The Eastern Church reflects this discrepancy.

As we will see, there was a motivation to transform the Lupercalia into a Christian feast.  However, the Lupercalia endured until the 5th century CE and was celebrated beginning on the Ides of February, i.e. the 13th, ending two days later, on the 15th.

At the start of the Lupercalia, two goats and a dog were sacrificed.  Next, two young Luperci, members of a corporation of priests, were led to the altar and anointed with the blood of the sacrificed animals.  Luperci then dressed themselves in thongs, called februa, taken from skin of the of the sacrificed goats and dog and ran around the walls of the old Palatine city carrying thongs and striking the crowd.

Pancake Day or La fête des crêpes

Later, salt meal cakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt, which is interesting because in France, Candlemas, celebrated on 2nd February, is “la fête des crêpes” or Pancake Day and today, 12th February is International Pancake Day.  It would be my opinion that pan of pancakes is the pan of pots and pans, but would that it were the Pan of the “Greek god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs” (Pan, Wikipedia).

Pan’s Roman counterpart was Faunus.  But Pan protected the flocks from wolves, which would suggest that he was also the counterpart of Lupercus, the above-mentioned Roman god of shepherds who replaced an earlier god named Februus (see Lupercalia, Wikipedia).

A fourth-century Roman depiction of Hylas and the Nymphs, from the basilica of Junius Bassus

A fourth-century Roman depiction of Hylas and the Nymphs, from the basilica of Junius Bassus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Valentine’s Day

However, for our purposes, the ancient and “pagan” Lupercalia was a raucous event which Pope Saint Gelasius I (494–96) wanted to abolish.  Senators opposed him so he invited them to run nude themselves.  After a long dispute, Gelasius replaced the Lupercalia with a “Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” to be observed on Candlemas.  It was a noble thought, but eventually the “pagan” feast became Saint Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day, celebrated on the 14th of February, near the Ides of February.  According to Britannica, “[i]t came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.”[i]  That would be in Chaucer’s (born c. 1342/43 died 25 October 1400) lifetime.

The many Saints called Valentine

There was a St Valentine a convert and a physician, who may have restored the sight of his gaoler’s blind daughter.  According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, this Valentine was clubbed to death c. 270.  His feast day is the 14th of February.  However, there could be other beatified Valentines.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, there are three saints named Valentine, one of whom would the bishop of Terni, formerly Interamna.  However, the Roman Martyrology recognizes only one St Valentine, a martyr who died on the Via Flaminia and whose feast day is the 14th of February. (See Saint Valentine, Wikipedia.)


I will break here.  We have gone from the Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day and stumbled upon la fête des crêpes (2nd February) or Pancake Day, which is quite a journey.  Let us return to the Lupercalia.  Pope Saint Gelasius I did abolish disorderly “pagan” festival.  However, although there is at least one saint named Valentine, Valentine’s Day is very much as described in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.  It is a “relic” of the Lupercalia.  It is no longer the Lupercalia of old, but it remains a celebration of love and friendship and a bit of a carnival.  In fact, not only is today, 12th February 2013, International Pancake Day, but it is also Mardi-Gras (Shrove Tuesday), which is the end of the carnival season.

Capitoline Wolf. Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Recent studies suggest that the wolf may be a medieval sculpture dating from the 13th century AD

Capitoline Wolf, bronze, 13th and late 15th century CE or c. 500 – 480 BCE. Musei Capitolini, RomeItaly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[i] “Valentine’s Day”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2013


composer: Jacques Offenbach (20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880)
piece: Barcarolle
Philippe Jaroussky (born 13 February 1978 in Maisons-Laffitte, France) countertenor
Natalie Dessay (19 April 1965, in Lyon) coloratura soprano

© Micheline Walker
12 February 2013
(revised: 2 February 2016)

The Hundred Years’ War: Story & History


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The Wedding of Charles d’Orléans and Bonne d’Armagnac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry.

Joan of Arc (6 January c. 1412 – 30 May 1431)
Louis I, duc d’Orléans (13 March 1372 – 23 November 1407)
Bonne d’Armagnac (19 February 1399 – 1430/35) (2nd wife of Charles d’Orléans)
Charles, duc d’Orléans (24 November 1394 – 5 January 1465) (captured in 1415, released in 1440)
Charles VI the “Mad,” King of France (3 December 1368 – 21 October 1422)
Isabeau of Bavaria, Charles VI’s wife (c. 1370 -24 September 1435)
Charles VII, Charles VI’s uncrowned son until 1429 (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461)
John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy (the Burgundians) (28 May 1371 – 10 September 1419)
Henry V of England, King of England (9 August 1386 – 31 August 1422)
Henry VI, his son and heir, King of England and France (6 December 1421 – 21 May 1471)

Hundred Years’ War (1337 to 1453)
Battle of Agincourt (Azincourt) 25 October 1415 (an English victory)
Treaty of Troyes (21 May 1420) Charles VI of France disinherits Charles VII and marries his daughter, Catherine de Valois, to Philip V of England
Siege of Orleans (1428 – 1429) Joan of Arc saves France 


I hope the list above will prove helpful. It resembles a dramatis personae, the names of characters in a play. But battles and treaties have been included.

The Assassination of Louis I, duke of Orleans (1407)

There is history and behind it, behind the official record, stories or rumours. Such is the case with the central event of the Hundred Years’ War: the Treaty of Troyes, signed at Troyes, France, by Charles VI, the “Mad,” in the presence of his wife, Isabeau of Bavaria.


Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry, le 1er mai, featuring Charles d’Orléans (Photo credit: Google Images)

The Backdrop: an affair (1403)

  • regencies
  • an affair (c. 1403)
  • an assassination (1407)
  • the Treaty of Troyes (1420)

In 1407, during the Hundred Years’ War, Louis I, duc d’Orléans was assassinated by thugs in the service of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy. A civil war broke out which opposed the Armagnacs (the House of Valois) and the Burgundians, a French royal house. During the minority of Charles VI, Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy (17 January 1342 – 27 April 1404) had been regent. In other words, there was an interregnum. In 1388, Charles VI dismissed the Burgundians.

A few years later, in 1393, Charles VI lost stature when he became mentally. A mad king is a weak king. During Charles VI’s bouts of madness, Charles VI’s wife, Isabeau of Bavaria, sat on the regency council, but Louis I, duc d’Orléans, Charles VI’s brother, was gaining ascendancy, which undermined the Burgundians’ attempt to rule France.

Rumour has it that Louis I, duc d’Orléans became Isabeau de Bavière’s lover and fathered Charles VII, the heir presumptive to the kingdom of France. It appears Charles VI knew his son was fathered by Louis, duke of Orleans. This would shed light on his signing the Treaty of Troyes (1420), central to the Hundred Years’ War, the broader theatre. Charles VI also knew his son had assassinated John the Fearless and disinherited him. Charles VII was disinherited before the Treaty of Troyes.

There are times when rumours are history, or when stories are history. Our historical fact is that under the terms of the Treaty of Troyes, signed in 1420, French King Charles VI, the “mad” King, disinherited his son, Charles VII, and bequeathed his kingdom, the kingdom of France, to Philip V, King of England. Charles VI also agreed to a marriage between Philip V and his daughter Catherine de Valois. Catherine gave birth to a son on 6 December 1421.



Philip V died in 1422, during a campaign in France. He never saw his son, but his son, would be Philip VI, King of England and, if he survived childhood, he would also be king of France. As it happens, Philip VI survived childhood.

The rumour makes sense. Charles VI was mad, Louis, duke of Orleans, a philanderer, and Isabeau, vulnerable. So it could be that Louis, duke of Orleans, fathered Charles VII. In other words, there may be truth to the rumour, in which case Charles, duke of Orleans was Charles VII‘s first cousin and half-brother.

Jean de Dunois

In fact, Charles, duke of Orleans had another half-brother, Jean de Dunois (23 November 1402 – 24 November 1468). Jean de Dunois was born to Marguerite d’Enghien, Louis I, duke of Orleans’ mistress. He was called the “bastard of Orleans” which was not a pejorative designation as it suggested that everyone knew he was Louis d’Orleans’ son.

Jean de Dunois was loyal to his half-brother, Charles d’Orleans. During Charles of Orleans’ lengthy detention in England, Jean de Dunois looked after his half-brother’s interests in France and, particularly at Orléans. When Joan of Arc entered the war, then at a low point, Jean de Dunois and La Hire were her main generals. Joan of Arc so inspired them that they lifted the Siege of Orleans, allowing her to complete the task assigned to her by the archangel Michael, God’s warrior. She took Charles VII to Reims, where he was crowned King of France on 17 July 1429. On 6 November 1429, Henry VI was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey and, on 26 December 1429, King of France, at Notre-Dame de Paris.

The French victory at Orleans changed the course of the war and the rightful heir was crowned on July 17 at Reims, the cathedral where French Kings were crowned. The Hundred Years’ War lingered, but Joan had defeated the English, as was requested of her by the archangel Michael. France had a French King, not an English King.

One could say that Joan had undone the Treaty of Troyes, which is true to a very large extent. The French House of Valois ruled France, not the English House of Plantagenet. However, Philip VI could claim the throne of France and, as noted above, Philip VI was crowned King of France on 26 December 1429, at Notre-Dame de Paris.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojéda

Les Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry, April, detail ©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. Ojéda

Charles, duke of Orleans marries Bonne d’Armagnac

However, there was a war within a war. In 1410, Bernard VII, Count of Armagnac and constable of France married his daughter Bonne d’Armagnac (19 February 1339 – 1430/35) to Charles, duke of Orleans. The wedding of Charles, duke of Orleans and Bonne d’Armagnac, depicted in the Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry, strengthened the crown of France. The Armagnacs were a powerful family. Bonne was 11 years old and her spouse, 16, when the two married. They were very young. The marriage however was first and foremost a contract or alliance. It may never have been consummated as Bonne died childless in 1430 or 1435. Yet, despite his age, Charles was marrying for the second time.


Charles’ first wife, Isabelle de Valois, died in childbirth in 1409. As for Bonne, she would die childless when Charles was in captivity. She was 16 when her husband was captured at the Battle of Agincourt, in 1415. She died in 1430 or 1435, before her husband’s release, which did not occur until 1440. When he returned to France, Charles d’Orléans married 16-year-old Maria of Cleves (19 September 1426 – 23 August 1487) who was 35 years younger than her husband. They had three children, one of whom would be King of France, Louis XII of France.

Charles’ wedding to Bonne d’Armagnac is featured above. It is an illumination in Jean de France’s Très Riches Heures de Jean de France, duc de Berry. Bonne was related to John, Duke of Berry (30 November 1340 – 15 June 1416), a Burgundian who died of the plague.

The Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War (1410 – 1435)

It has been said that Bonne d’Armagnac’s marriage to Charles d’Orléans triggered the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War, which lasted until 1435. The wedding did empower the House of Valois. Charles VII was the rightful heir, according to the French. And despite the death of Louis of Orleans, the House of Orleans had a ruler, which benefited Charles VI, King of France. But by the same token, the marriage weakened the Dukes of Burgundy.

During the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War,

  • the Burgundians entered into an alliance with England;
  • the Treaty of Troyes was signed by Charles VI the “Mad” of France;
  • Joan of Arc was captured by the Burgundians; handed over to the English, and burned at the stake.

In other words, the Burgundian reaction to the marriage of Charles Orléans led to a harmful alliance between France and England. Moreover, it is rumoured that the Treaty of Troyes was orchestrated by the Burgundians. If it was, they did not realize they would have to fight the English in order to rule France. The Armagnac’s King, Charles VII, ascended the throne of France in 1429, so France had two kings, one of whom the French could not consider their king. The Treaty of Troyes is the great pity that had befallen France. The House of Plantagenet coveted the French throne, but the Burgundians had become English and, in 1415, England had won a major victory at Agincourt and captured Charles, duke of Orleans. France’s decisive victory at the Siege of Orleans angered the Burgundians.

After England’s defeat at the Siege of Orleans, the Burgundians captured Joan of Arc and handed her over to the English. She was burned at the stake on 30 May 1431 and Charles VII did not save her.

Yet, if the French victory, Joan of Arc’s victory, at the Siege of Orleans caused the English to unravel, the same is true of the Burgundians. The English loss at the Siege of Orleans ended the Armagnac-Burgundian Civil War and it ended the Hundred Years’ War. A French King had been crowned.


Poetically speaking, the rumour according to which Charles VII was Louis of Orleans‘ son is very helpful. The Treaty of Troyes remains senseless, as does a Burgundian alliance with England, but Charles VI’ unprofitable decision is now more understandable. If given a choice, I believe I would combine the story and history, because the story explains history, all the more since a humble girl heard voices and did as an archangel directed her to do. It seems a legend.

Captured in 1415, Charles, duke of Orleans was released in 1440 and, meanwhile, a poet was born who wrote Ballades, Rondeaux and Chansons, often mentioning Valentine’s Day. I have now read all of his poetry. It is listed as medieval and is ‘courtly,’ as in “courtly love.”

Charles d’Orléans often wrote several poems that used the same first line, or a variation of that line. Also, the first half of that line often contradicted the second half. Antithetical lines are a rhetorical device, but most of Charles’ antithetical lines reflect the human condition. The best-known and my favourite is:

« Je meurs de soif auprès de la fontaine. »
(I die of thirst next to a fountain.)

My favourite line reminds me of Charles’ statement to Marie de Clèves, his third wife, who was 35 years younger than her husband. The difference was ‘poetically’ correct:

« Car pour moi fustes trop tart née,
Et moy pour vous fus trop tost né. »

“ ’cause you for me were born too late.
And I for you was born too soon.”

(I believe my computer is recovering, but it is unstable. It didn’t have cookies. It logs me out when it shouldn’t.)

My kindest regards to everyone. 


Sources and Resources 


Charles d’Orléans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
31 January 2016

Pietro Bembo by Titian, and the Vernacular


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Pietro Bembo by Titian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few posts ago, I listed two old posts as related articles. One was about the Petrarchan Movement, the other, about Joachim du Bellay

In 1525, Cardinal Pietro Bembo (20 May 1470 – either 11 January or 18 January 1547) wrote Prose della volgar lingua, a text in which he encouraged authors to write in Italian, the vernacular, rather than Latin. The vernacular was Italian as spoken in Florence and Tuscany. For Pietro Bembo, however, it was the Italian used by Francesco Petrarch (20 May 1470 – either 11 January or 18 January 1547), hence the Petrarchan Movement. I also mentioned authors Dante Alighieri (1625 – 1321) and Giovanni Boccaccio (c. 1313- 21 December 1375).

The Madrigal

As for musicians, they too were to set to music texts written in Italian, rather than Latin. In the area of music, Francesco Landini (c. 1325 or 1335 – 2 September 1397) was the first writer of madrigals, a word meaning in one’s mother tongue: madre in Spanish.

France: Du Bellay

A few years later, in 1549, French poet Joachim du Bellay (c. 1522 – 1 January 1560) published his Défense et illustration de la langue française. It became acceptable to write poetry in one’s native language. Du Bellay was a poet, not a composer.

England: Chaucer

As for England, Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), who took the Roman de la Rose to England, he had also advocated the use of English, rather than Latin or French, as a literary language. He translated part of the Roman de la Rose. You may recall that until the end of the Hundred Years’ War, French was spoken at the court of England and Edward VII felt he was a legitimate heir to the throne of France. He wasn’t by virtue of the Salic Law. A woman could not ascend the throne of France. Edward VII’s mother was French. Hence the fratricidal nature of the Hundred Years’ War, a war of succession.


Shakespeare by Titian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Titian (Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio)

But let us say a word about Titian (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576) and note, in particular, his extraordinary portrait of Pietro Bembo. It shows skills I had not fully appreciated until now. The beauty is in the use of colours: discreet and dramatic. The expression Titian gave Bembo’s eyes suggests a profoundly meditative mind.

Titian also made a portrait of William Shakespeare, shown above.



With warm greetings to all of you♥ 

Ennio Morricone (Deborah’s Theme)


© Micheline Walker
26 January 2015


by Titian
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A Tribute to Céline and René


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Programme of the Funeral (back)


René Angélil 1942 – 2016

Céline Dion (b. 1968) was twelve when her mother contacted René Angélil (1942 – 2016). She had recorded her daughter singing and sent the tape to René who realized that Céline’s voice could lead her to stardom.

When Pope John Paul II visited Montreal in 1984, Céline sang while doves were set free. It was a very touching performance.

Then came the years when René Angélil honed her. Céline needed training. She had to learn English. Exposure was of course essential. Céline therefore participated in various contests winning first prizes. When she emerged on the international scene, she was prepared, lovely and successful.

The unexpected was that she fell in love with the man who had guided her to stardom. She married him at Notre-Dame Basilica in 1994, and Notre-Dame Basilica is the Montreal church where a National Funeral was held on 22 January.

The age difference, 26 years, did not bode well for the couple. For the last year or so, rumours circulated that Céline and René were ending their marriage. The truth is that she took a sabbatical to be home looking after him and their three children, two of whom are very young, twins Nelson (from Nelson Mandela) and Eddy (from Eddy Marnay, a French songwriter). Their first son, René-Charles, is 15.

René Angélil

René Angélil was born in Montreal to a father of Syrian and Lebanese descent and a French-Canadian mother. He was a performer and manager. In fact, managing Céline’s career soon became full-time employment.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s and, in September 2015, Céline announced that nothing more could be done to save his life. He died on 14 January 2016.

What prompts me to write is compassion. Céline was barely out of childhood, when René Angélil became her manager and she is now 47 years old. René had been her world for 35 years. She will be returning to her profession a few weeks from now, but imagine the grief she is experiencing.

She is the mother of an exceptionally mature and articulate 15-year-old son, René-Charles. He will be there for her as will the rest of her family and her public, but her loss is immense.

She is unlikely ever to replace so loving and admiring a husband. I hope she finds another companion, but one cannot duplicate as extraordinary a love story as that of René and Céline. He helped her rise to stardom, but she remained humble, kept close and loving ties with her family and was a responsible and good wife and mother.

I want her to know that I feel enormously sorry for her.


© Micheline Walker
25 January 2016





The Hundred Years’ War: its Literary Legacy


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A painting of Geoffrey Chaucer as pilgrim in the Canterbury Tales’ Ellesmere Manuscript (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are leaving our Anglo-Norman authors to investigate the literature dating back to the Hundred Years’ War.

Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), the “Father” of English literature, is our main figure and a transitional figure. He took to England the French Roman de la Rose, written by Guillaume de Lorris (c. 1230-1235) and Jean de Meun(g) (1275-1280) and he translated part of it as the Romaunt of the Rose. Pre-Raphaelite Frederick Startridge Ellis (1830–1901) translated the Roman de la Rose in its entirety.

Chaucer’s name is derived from the French le chausseur (the shoemaker), which suggests French ancestry. Moreover, Chaucer knew French. This would explain his ability to translate literary works written in French as well as his being assigned diplomatic missions that required a knowledge of French. For instance, as a courtier, he was asked to make an attempt to end the Hundred Years’ War. Chaucer was a man of many talents.  

The Hundred Years’ War

In 1359, during the Hundred Years’ War, Chaucer travelled to France with Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence[.] In 1360, he was captured during the siege of ReimsEdward III paid £16 to ransom him, a large sum of money that did not cover in full the amount demanded by France. Ransoms helped finance wars, hence the idiomatic ‘king’s ransom.’

The Romaunt of the Rose & Courtly Love

In all likelihood, it would at that time that Chaucer took to England the above-mentioned Roman de la Rose, which epitomizes courtly love. The number of the 22,000-line Roman de la Rose Chaucer translated seems of lesser importance than the role he played in introducing the conventions of courtly love to an English public. Chaucer’s the Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde reflect his familiarity with courtly love.

Valentine’s Day

In 1340, when Charles, Duke of Orleans was released, after 25 years of captivity in England, he took to the court of France much of the legend of Valentine’s Day, which may or may not have included the myth about birds mating on 14 February, Valentine’s Day. In 1340, Chaucer had yet to write his 700-line Parlement of Foules (1343 – 1400) in which he speaks of birds mating of 14 February. Nor had Chaucer come into contact with Petrarch (20 July 1304 – 19 July 1374), and Boccaccio (1313 – 21 December 1375) authors whose works can be associated with Chaucer’s.

In all likelihood, the most important work our ransomed Chaucer took to England is the above-mentioned allegorical Roman de la Rose, which epitomizes courtly love. As noted, Chaucer translated at least part of the Roman de la Rose into The Romaunt of the RoseHowever, the number of verses he translated seems less important than his introducing the conventions of courtly love to an English and probably courtly public. Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde reflect his familiarity with courtly love.

Reynard the Fox

Chaucer also used ‘Reynard material’ in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. He wrote a “Chanticleer and the Fox.” The Roman de la Rose and the Roman de Renart (Reynard the Fox) are the French Middle Ages’ foremost literary achievements.


Chanticleer and the Fox, in a medieval manuscript miniature (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “Father” of English Literature

Yet, Chaucer was very much an English writer. He is considered the “Father” of English literature and is credited with validating the use of the English language, as a literary language, in a country where French and Latin were “the dominant literary languages.”[1] (See Geoffrey Chaucer, Wikipedia.)

Shakespeare and other Authors

The Hundred Years’ War also exerted an influence on Shakespeare, the co-author of Edward III. Moreover, Thomas Hardy (2 June 1840 – 11 January 1928) evokes the presence of the French in England in his Tess of the d’Huberville (1891). However, characters inhabiting Hardy’s ‘fictional’ Wessex would be the descendants of Normans who settled in England when it was conquered by William, Duke of Normandy.


The Hundred Years’ War was not a continuous struggle, but it was a very long and complex conflict that ended the most vigorous attempt on the part of England to claim the French throne. Marriages had made French the language of the English court and the English had relatives in France as did the French in England.

But this is where we end this post.

With kindest regards to everyone.



[1] Pietro Bembo, would validate the use of the vernacular in Italian literature. In France, this role was played by poet Joachim du Bellay (c. 1522 – 1 January 1560).

arts-graphics-2008_1184459a© Micheline Walker
24 January 2016


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