It has been awhile since I started writing about my nine European heritages, some of them minute and some of them I have a lot of percentage of. Closed adoptees, like myself, are denied their heritage. It wasn’t until Bennett Greenspan, whom I interviewed in January 2017, created the very first ancestral DNA testing site that closed adoptees could find and know their heritages; Family Tree DNA. As I mentioned before, some non-adoptees might not know all of their heritage or have incorrect information. For example, my adoptive mum was told she was 100% Polish, she took the test and learnt she’s not. The difference here, besides the fact my great great grandmother told her they were part French which was true amongst other European nationalities, is that closed adoptees are denied knowing their heritages simply for being adopted. This is no different than a woman being denied the right to vote prior to 1919 in the United States or Asians being denied the right to immigrate to the United States during the Chinese Exclusion Act. Discrimination is discrimination. Sometimes, adoption agencies knew of a closed adoptee’s heritage and paired them with a family of the same heritage. Whilst this is great for preserving cultural heritage, and is mandatory for all Native Americans, the agencies do it thinking that the replacement means you can just as easily replace the family, which is impossible. No two Polish families, no two Greek families, no two Italian families, etc. are the same. Biological roots are connected through epigenetics, stories, roots, and yes, this matters. Nevertheless, for most closed adoptees (7 million in the US, 3 million in Canada and that’s a very conservative estimate) they do not know their heritages or have incorrect information either because the biological father was unknown, a biological parent was an adoptee themself, or most likely because the agency completely lied.
Without further ado….France.
Neaderthals lived in France from around 400,000 bc to 30,000 years ago. Although most White people (as in their descendants come from modern day Europe) today have Neanderthal DNA. The Carnac stones of France also date around 43,000 years ago. The Neaderthals did practice cannibalism. The first recording of France is from the Iron Age starting about 800 bc, although is certainly wasn’t called France until over a millennia later. The Ice Age humans of France were called the Cro-Magnons. They lived in caves and hunted reindeer and mammoths, which required immense skill, agility, unbelievable strength, and bravery. They were artistic making cave paintings and figures carved from iron. The Neaderthals created the Venus figurines over thousands and thousands of years; little statues with exaggerated female anatomy. Neanderthal is a loose term. There were many, many tribes and cultures throughout Europe during the pre-written history that went on for hundreds of thousands of years with different languages, cultures, beliefs, practices. They battled with each other, invaded each other’s lands, and intermingled both in amicable trade and in making babies.
After the Iron Age, they continued to hunt for several centuries but around 6000 bc farming came to France. In 4,500 bc in came the Stone Age. The ancient people of France’s Stone Age had a sophisticated civilisation. In 2,000 bc bronze came to France. Both bronze and farming, although thousands of years apart in their invention, both came from the Middle East.
The ancient Romans referred to France as Gaul. Gaul had three primary ethno linguistic groups: the Aquitani, the Belgae, and the Gauls. The Gauls were the most populated and were Celtic. They spoke Gaulish. Nobody at this time spoke French or anything similar to it who was a native of Gaul. Over a long period in the 1st millenium bc the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans established settlements. The Roman Republic annexed southern Gaul in the last 2nd century bc, and Julius Caesar, with his troops, conquered the remainder of Gaul in 58 to 51 bc. After that, a Gallo-Roman culture formed and Gaul integrated over time into the Roman Empire, which also means a change from one polytheistic religion to another; the much more well known belief of the Roman gods and goddesses such as Zeus, Hera, Herucles, and Hades.
In 600 bc the Greeks founded Massalia, making it France’s oldest city. Today, we know that city as Marseillas. At the same time, Celtic tribes penetrated eastern regions of France from the 5th to 3rd century bc.
Gaul was much bigger than modern day France and covered also Belgium, northwest Germany, and nothern Italy. The Greeks were in France long before the Romans and settled in Provence. The Greeks also founded Nikaia, what we now know as Nice. There were many wars and battles between the different ethnic groups. The tribes of Gaul were no match for the military technology of the Roman Empire and they were defeated in the third century bc. Hannibal Barca, a Carthaginian (modern day Tunisian) worked with Gauls to annex Provence in 122 bc, but later on Julius Caesar won it back. Vercingetorix got the Gauls to come together, but they were no match for Caesar. The Romans founded Lyon, Carbonne, and Grenoble with the famous Cicero being one of the men to form Grenoble.
Under Roman control, Gaul was sliced up and populations were displaced to prevent a revolt. Many were made slaves and forced to move out of Gaul. The biggest change was the language. Out went Gaulish, Aquitani, and Belgae, and in came Vulgar Latin, which was different from classical Latin which was for writing and reading. Emperors like Claudius were born in Gaul.
From the 200s through the 400s (we are now into AD) were multiple clashes with what the Romans referred to as the barbarians; various tribal groups from mainly modern day Germanic countries.
The Roman Empire fell in the late 400s, and in came the early medaieval period. At the end of Antiquity, Gaul was divided into many Germanic kingdoms and a Gallo-Roman kingdom called Syagrius. The Celtic Britons settled America, near modern day Brittany. Celtic culture and small, independent kingdoms thrived in Brittany.
The pagan Franks took over northern Gaul, and under Clovis I (all from modern day Germany) took over the kingdoms of northern and central Gaul. In 498 AD, Clovis I converted to Catholicism and France was given the title eldest daughter of the Church.
Over a period of a few hundred years the language changed to Romance languages which in France eventually became French, Catalan, and Occitan. Clovis I made Paris the capital. Clovis I through his four sons started the Merovingian dynasty, and land was divided up amongst the four sons and then continously to their male descendants. The last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed in 751 and sent to a monastery by the manager of the household, Pepin the Short. Even long before this, the manager of mayor of the household, had a lot of power. Pepin founded the Carolingian dynasty and his son, Charlemagne, is one of the most famous rulers of France. Charlemagne is stilled learnt about today and is referenced in the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark. Charlemagne reunited the Frankish kingdoms. The Carolingian dynasty did not last long, ending with Charlemagne’s son Emperor Louis I. In 843, the kingdom was divided into three parts for Pepin’s three great grandsons. It’s important to remember a good chunk of this was in modern day Germany.
In 721, the Muslims were stopped in the Battle of Toulouse. The Muslims tried and failed again in 732. However, in 759 the Islamic Army from modern day north Africa was able to take Septimania, modern day northeast France. Charles Martel lead the Frankish troops in defeating the Muslim invaders.
During the 800s and 900s, Vikings from modern day Norway and Denmark invaded France repeatedly, thus greatly changing the culture as kings were constantly challenged by noblemen. This is how and why feudalism came about. Some of these noblemen got too big for their britches. For example, in 1066, the only time England has ever successfully been invaded, nobleman Guillaume the Conqueror put himself down as King of France, although Guillaume (William) did become the King of England.
During the 1100s the Crusades were fought in the Holy Land, modern day Israel and Palestine. The majority of Christian Crusaders were French. As they travelled across Europe, French became the main language amongst Crusaders and traders. In fact, most of the Knights Templar, the men legends were made of, were French. The French crusaders didn’t only fight against Muslims in the Holy Land, they also completely eradicated a small minority group of Christians called Cathars living in France who practiced a form of Christianity more ancient than Roman Catholicism. Only 10% of the Knights Templars were extremely skilled fighters. The other 90% were extremely well off bankers. It was all fun and games for the Knights Templar until 1307 when King Phillip IV thought they were too powerful and had them burnt at the stake.
During the 1300s royal rule became more assertive and very hierarchial. In 1328, King Charles IV (or Roi Charles IV) died without an heir. He only had one infant daughter. Salic Law, written into French law in the 500s, stated the crown could not pass to a woman nor could the line of kingship pass through a female line, so the crown was awarded to Philip of Valois, Charles IV’s cousin. During Philip’s reign, France reached its height of the medaieval power, but it entered into the Hundred Years War with England, and endured the horrible Bubonic Plague. The Hundred Years War was actually four separate wars with short and long periods of peace in between. The goal of that was was England felt they deserved to rule France. The Bubonic Plague, the second one (the first global spread of the awful bubonic plague was inthe 500s) started in Mongolia. It entered Europe by way of Italy because of sea faring explorers and traders. In the 1300s, 1/3rd of Europeans died from this ghastly disease. Although Poland was practically unscathed in comparison. My guess is because Poland had a large Jewish population. In France, 50% or 8.5 million people succumned to the black death. King Philip of Valois was extremely anti-Semitic, and expelled the Jews from France blaming the plague on them. The truth was the Jews just kept to better hygiene, and yes some Jews did die of the plague.
During the Hundred Years War, at the later end of it, who could arguably be France’s most famous person was born. Joan of Arc, or in French, Jeanne D’Arc was born in Orleans (accent on the e). Originally, her father wanted the infant Jeanne to be left out to die, as sons were more useful in those days. She was born 6 January 1412. France was in disarray during Jeanne’s childhood as the King Charles VI was severely mentally ill and so the king’s brother and cousin fought over who got to rule France and who got guardianship of the royal children. Jeanne was born to a middle class family, unlike most ancient and medaieval female saints who were born royal or to nobility. At 13 years old, Jeanne started to hear the voice of God and see visions of saints Catherine, Michael, and Margaret. Call it divine intervention, a brain disorder, or both. In 2016, two Italian neurologists concluded they believe the teenage girl suffered from a type of epilepsy that includes auditory and visual hallucinations. Her real name was Jehanne as this is how she signed it. At 13, she had visions that the saints told her to remove the English out of France and bring the dauphin to Reims for his coronation. At 16 she petitioned the garrison commander Robert de Baudricourt for an armed escort to take her to the French royal court in Chinon. He refused, but the following January Joan or Jeanne or Johanne or Jehanne came back. She even stated she would rather be home with her maman spinning wool, but God commands she go. Two men, Metz and Poulengy, said yes and so Johanne made a prediction about the Battle of Rouvray. She was spot on with her prediction. After that, Boudricourt changed his mind about her and her plans. She was taken to Chinon disguised as a man for precaution. The people gave her the men’s clothing so she would stay alive. She was 17. It was in her meeting with King Charles VII thats he asked to engage in combat and be in full armour. France at the time was in humiliating defeat, and had tried every logical possibility to make a comeback prior to a 17 year old girl with no training asking to go to war. The Dauphin ordered exams on her to make sure she wasn’t a witch. The French found her to be an amazing Christian. Johanne D’Arc was eventually kidnapped by the British and charged by both Brits and Burgundian clergy (Burgundy is a province in France). She was falsely accused of heresy for simply wearing men’s clothing, something she was ordered to do to stay alive. She was murdered via being burnt at the stake at 19 on May 30, 1431. Her executioner Geoffrey Therage (accent on the first e in Therage) stated he “greatly feared to be damned”. Her family petitioned Pope Callixtus III and in 1455 a retrial found her not guilty. She became a saint in 1901. Whilst she was an amazing and holy person, a French military leader, Gilles de Rais, who fought alongside Jeanne was a disgusting psychopathic child serial killer who murdered these children in horrifically ghastly ways I will not write here. He was hanged along with his involved cousin and servant. Most of his victims were peasant boys. Some of their murders were so despicable that the judges omitted the evidence from the books because it was too disgusting to write. You can look it up for yourself if you want, I am definitely not posting it here.
Next came better times under the French Renaissance. I didn’t say great, I said better. The French Renaissance saw enormous cultural expansion. French became the official language of France and the elites of Europe. France saw huge improvements in architecture, the arts, humanism, printing, the sciences, etiquette, and literature. It was not all roses and rainbows though. Most French were peasants. Many wars were fought with Italy, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire which wasn’t holy nor Roman. This was during the 1500s, 1600s, and most of the 1700s. In 1572, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre murdered thousands of Huguenots; French Protestants by Catholics. The war between France and Spain lasted twenty-four years until 1659. Under Louis XIV feudal lords rebelled to rise to kingship as it meant total power. Those caught trying to despose of the king were pulled apart by horses. Louis XIV turned the feudal lords into courtiers so his power was unchallenged. In the 1600s, because of the king, France became the wealthiest and most populated European country, and education greatly rose.
Under the French Renaissance, France colonised countries around the world. This wasn’t necessarily always a good thing for the native people of those lands, but not all French explorers were terrible and over all they were much better than the Spaniards. Samuel de Champlain, Jean Nicolet, and Jacques Cartier were some of the explorers. French explorers were the first to settle an European ethnic town in Canada, modern day Quebec City.
In the late 1700s, Louis XVI supported the Americans separating from Great Britain. The French Navy was vital in giving the United States our independence. Meanwhile, during the 1700s French men were creating great scientific advances. In fact, the French have discovered things and not been given credit for it, same goes for women throughout history. Madame Curie is an exception. Seen as French, she was actually Polish married to a Frenchman. Some of the biggest scientific advances were in chemistry and maritime, which is how they came to have such a powerful Navy during the American Revolution.
After bringing America onto the map, the French spent the next 10 years (1789-1799) fighting to overthrow the monarchy and create a democratic France. July 14th is France’s independence day because it’s the day the Bastille in Paris was stormed. The Bastille was a prison, a somewhat lavish prison for the rich. The peasants and middle class had had enough. In the summer of 1789, the National Constituent Assembly abolished exclusive hunting rights and serfdom. In the fall of 1789, the Assembly sold all the property of the Roman Catholic Church, which owned the most land in France. The following summer they took away the Church’s power of controlling taxes. In 1792, they went to war with Austria and gave every Frenchmen the right to vote. One wonders why they didn’t do this 200 years earlier. In January 1793 the ex Roi Louis XVI was convicted and beheaded; October Marie Antoinette, originally from Austria, lost her head. Louis XVI had Polish ancestry as well as French. Marie and Louis were second cousins once removed. At his former majesty’s execution he stated he was innocent and forgave those who brought him to his death. He wanted to say more, but was cutt off (pun not intended) with a drum roll, and quickly beheaded. Some accounts say the blade didn’t cut through his neck the first time (he was fat). Before his death, he told a friend he must train himself not to cry. The executioner’s personal diary was interesting, and he felt there should be fewer executions. He also supported swift executions. Monsieur Guillotine (not the executioner), in fact, strongly opposed torturous executions, botched beheadings, and believed in ending capital punishment.
Following independence was the French civil war that cost maybe 450,000 lives.
I’m skipping Napoleon. He was from Corsica, he was full of himself, he was a dictator he was exiled, he died of stomach cancer. He made the dumb choice of going into freezing Russia. The Nazis a century later would make the same dumb choice, not that I’m complaining.
France was involved in both WWI and WWII against Germany. In WWII, France was overtaken by Nazi Germany as the French Army surrendered, but there were French civilians, including children, who resisted the Nazis to the point of being shot and killed.
France originally had francs as currency, but joined the EU early on and switched to euros. Many French hated and still hate the EU believing it destroys the individual cultures in Europe (an initial concern) or that the global economy is a bad idea.
The 60s in France saw a wave of secularism and sexual revolution. In the 1970s came a wave of hundreds of thousands of Muslim men with very high rates of being on the dole. France allows immigrants to maintain their cultures, traditions, and beliefs but since 2004 France has abolished religious symbols in public schools. France had let in many immigrants, and has the highest Muslim population in Europe. Most of these immigrants are nice, law abiding people but since the wave of immigration France has been subjected to many Islamic terrorism from the 1990s through the 21st century. The French have maintained a connection to travelling to Muslim countries as exotic travel such as Morocco and Iran. One hundred thousand ethnic French have converted to Islam, usually from Catholicism or atheism. Many French footballers are from immigrant Muslim families. Most French are Catholic, followed by atheist. France does not consider a baby born to two illegals or two non-French on holiday to be a French citizen.
France has some of the most amazing architecture, most notably the Notre Dame de Paris. France is also extremely well known for its fashion and cuisine.
All children in France are mandated to go to school. Homeschooling is illegal. They start at age 3. Children go to school on Saturday mornings, but they have off on Wednesdays. A typical French breakfast is very small usually a croissant with chocolate and a coffee. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. The French really range in their lifestyle, likes, dislikes, traditional foods, and more because of the geographic diversity of France and how big France is. Dialects also range. Unfortunately, many French people still smoke.
There is so much more to beautiful France. I hope you have enjoyed what you have read here.
Picture is of a town in the French Pyrenees. (accent on the second e).