History is filled with cruel ironies and is even more so for the French, whose past can be amusing as well.
1) Henry IV was one of France’s most well-loved kings whose reign was marked with relative peace in the country. This was a man who ended the French civil war between the Protestants and Catholics. This was a man who renewed Paris as a great city and inaugurated the impressive Pont Neuf (New Bridge) during his rule. Unfortunately, the few who hated him were religious terrorists. One actually got past his security and stabbed Henry to death. It seems no matter how popular you are as a country’s leader, there’ll always people who will want you dead. Cue JFK.
3) Louis XVI has the unanimous honour of being the last king of France and the only one who got executed by his people. This ‘unfortunate’ incident was, of course, due to the French Revolution which overthrew the Ancien Regime of absolute monarchy. Interestingly, a mere 13 years before the start of the revolution, Louis supported the American Revolution by sending troops, supplies and ships to the New World. He wanted to humiliate the British by helping to ensure the Americans gain independence. Whooops…fast forward to 1793 and Louis laid with his head in a guillotine thinking,“Damn. I should have seen this revolutionary trend picking up sooner…”
4) Ask any French man or woman who they think was the greatest French who ever lived and most will proudly say, “Napolean!” Ironically, Napolean or more accurately Napolean Bonaparte, wasn’t even born in France. He was born on the island of Corsica which was previously under Italian rule. In fact, as a young child, Napolean hated the French and even fought in the Corsican Revolution. The Great Napolean famously once wrote, “As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me.” Yup. This coming from a guy who would become the Emperor of France many years later.
5) Oh by the way, by crowning himself Emperor and with the intention of re-creating a hereditary monarchy in France, Napolean kinda made the whole French Revolution a little “what’s the point?” Though he is better revered and respected than almost all the Bourbon kings before him.
6) The Arc de Triomphe is a masterpiece of a monument that sits at the end of the Champs Elysses. Just underneath it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a symbolic dedication to dead, unidentified soldiers who fought in both World Wars, and where an Eternal Flame stays lit ever since 1920. Well…this flame isn’t as eternal as it was meant to be because in 1998, after France beat Brazil in the World Cup Final held in Paris, a drunk Mexican apparently peed on it and extinguished the flame for the first time in eight decades. I guessed he was pretty ‘pissed’ about the 3-0 result. Moreover, in 2004, an Australian couple with nothing better to do, had a mini barbecue with sausages and all in the middle of the night at the Arc. According to reports, a few winnies fell off their skewers and put the flame out AGAIN. If these trespasses go on, the Parisians must consider more state-of-the-art security systems!!
7) Usually, a vacation is a short-lived experience that one would enjoy before returning home to reality. A Singaporean who just spent two weeks in Paris actually yearns to return there and has his iPhone in French. Cue me. WTF.
Happy holidays everyone!