Monday, January 10, 2011

History of France (I)

As an echo to my previous post I would like to show you today some old French stamps that I like. Not so old in fact as they belong to my 1966 stamps collection (1966 being the year of my birth ;-) ).

In 1966, the French postal administration initiated a new series of stamps. This series spanned from 1966 to 1973, three stamps being issued every year on the theme of the History of France. At the beginning the stamps pictured famous people in French History, but then some stamps were more dedicated to events rather than people.
The stamps were designed and engraved by the famous French engraver Albert Decaris. They are large stamps that I really like both because of their design and because of their subject. I have already shown one of the stamp of the 1966 set, I show it again below. I will try to write a post for each of the issues within this series, so that you can have a glimpse at the French History.

The first stamps of the series pay tribute to three important men, one leader and two kings, in early French History, when France was not the France we know today.

The first stamp is dedicated to Vercingetorix. Vercingetorix was born around 80 BC and died in 46 BC. He was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe and came to power in 52 BC when he raised an army, uniting all the various tribes of Gaul (Gaul was the name of the country that will become France), in a revolt against the Roman forces of Julius Caesar during the last phases of the Gallic wars.
After having defeated Caser during the battle of Gergovia, he was defeated at the battle of Alesia. According to the legend the Vercingetorix surrounded in a dramatic fashion to Caesar, riding his beautiful horse out of Alesia and around Caesar’s camp before dismounting in from of Caesar, stripping himself of his armor and sitting down at his opponent’s feet. He was paraded in 46 through Rome as part of Caesar’s triumph before being executed.
The origin of his name is rather disputed but the common agreement is that it means “the king of great warriors”. His actual appearance is not really known. But he represents a very famous character of this period of History for French people. Alesia, even though it represents a defeat in front of the Roman army, is very famous in French culture and has given its name to a street and a place in Paris, which are located very near where I leave. The exact location of the city of Alesia where the battle took place is not really well known and several places in France claim being the location of the battle.
The stamp represents Vercingetorix ridding his horse in front of the city of Gergovia where he won against the Roman troops.

The second stamp is the one I already showed on my blog in a previous post. It pictures the baptism of Clovis I in 496. Clovis (466-511) was the first king of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler. His baptism is a very important milestone in French History, Clovis being the first catholic king to rule over Gaul. His baptism took place in a small church near the site of the actual Cathedral of Reims where most future Kings of France would be crowned.
The stamp pictures Clovis being baptized by Saint Remy, the bishop of Reims. The same scene has been pictured on another French stamp in 1996 for the 1500th anniversary of the event.

The last stamp is dedicated to another important ruler of France in the early history: Charlemagne.
Charlemagne (742-814) was the king of Franks from 768 and the Emperor of the Romans from 800 until his death. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of the Western and Central Europe. Due to this he is sometimes presented at the father of Europe.
Charlemagne is known (among a lot of other things) to have develop scholarship during his reign. In the popular culture he is sometimes referred as the one who invented school (legend reused in a song that was very popular in the 60’s) but this is of course not true. School existed much before but Charlemagne did a lot for its development. This is why the stamp pictures him in a school.
Another legend is that he had a long white beard; he is even called the emperor with the “flowered beard”. Even though it is difficult to know what he really looked like, it seems he had no facial hair. The long white beard used to represent him (as on the stamp by the way) is symbol for his wisdom (wise mean are always wearing long white beards, aren’t they?).

What do you think of these stamps? I really like them. They picture famous people in French History; they have a very nice design. It must have been a pleasure to receive mails with such stamps on the cover. Don’t you think so?

In some future posts I will show you the other stamps of the same series that are as nice as those ones.


Dorincard said...

Great stamps! I like them, too.
Eric, you should say Roman, not Romanian. And Romans, not Romains.

Eric said...

Yep! This is corrected. I think this is a wrong auto correction of the spelling software of my text editor!