19-WINE AND DENIM

By the end of June, 1773, David in Rotterdam had received and sold several shipments of tobacco and realized a bigger return than anticipated, Jean-Baptiste Willermoz and François Johannot and their wives had come back from the south of France with interesting information along with several bottles of Burgundy wine and several meters of ‘de Nîmes’ cloth.

After debriefing Jean and François in his Farhgasse office, Mayer decided to give Gutle, his one and only confident, a full account of their trip. They sat down at the kitchen table, and Mayer started relating the great news Jean-Baptiste Willermoz and François Johannot were bringing back from France.

He first showed her a sample of the cloth. It had one weave of blue thread crossed with a weave of white thread, and the double-weave not only made for an interesting design, but gave it extra durability. Gutle thought the indigo colored cloth was beyond belief and wondered if poor people could afford it.

Mayer answered that it would sell for the same price as Indian or English cotton, and before Gutle had a chance to make a comment, Mayer reached for a bottle of burgundy wine, one of the many samples brought back by François. He picked up a funny curly piece of metal, drove it into the cork with a screwing motion and pulled the cork out of the bottle neck. He took two glasses, half-filled them, and they drank to their growing family.

Gutle thought the wine was too good to be true, but her mouth dropped upon learning how much money the wine and cloth was going to bring in. Mayer had started by explaining that Bouchard in Beaune was to receive a letter of exchange in the amount of £2500, or 1 shilling per bottle of wine once delivered in Rotterdam where David would presell it for 1/6 per bottle. David would give the new willing owners a letter of exchange guaranteeing them 3 shillings per bottle if delivered in New York where Haym would presell it for 4 shillings per bottle. 250000 bottles, or half a shipload, would thus generate a profit of £6000 in Rotterdam and another £12500 in New York City.

With regards to cloth, Dollfus was to receive a letter of exchange in the amount of £12000, or £10 per bolt of denim once delivered in Rotterdam where David would presell it for £12 per bolt. David would then give the new willing owners a letter of exchange guaranteeing them £15 per bolt if delivered in America where Haym would presell it for £17 per bolt. 6000 bolts of cotton, or half a shipload, would generate a profit of £12000 in Rotterdam and another £12000 in New York.

He concludes by repeating that since a work outfit made with denim cloth in America will cost less than one made with English or Indian cotton but last ten times longer, everybody will be fighting to buy it. Likewise, since the best wine in the world will only keep getting better in a bottle, all the bourgeois in America and England will want to fill their cellars with it. He then adds that though the profits appear to be huge, the price for these superb new products is well below what people will be willing to pay.

To help Gutle get over her choc, he starts relating the adventures of François’ trip to France. His party had started off by taking a river coach to Mainz. After spending a delightful night in a well-appointed inn, they set off the next day for Basel. River coaches were much more comfortable and a faster means of transportation, but only when going downriver, the rest of the time it was best to travel by stage coach. It took them five days by stage coach to reach Basel where friends were waiting for them.

After a day’s rest, they travelled by stage coach to Montbeliard , and from there they continued on by river coach to Chalon-sur-Saone, a town south of Beaune. Having made prior arrangements, a local winemaker whom they hadn’t seen in years welcomed them in his beautiful country estate. The next day, their host introduced Jean-Baptiste and François to Joseph Bouchard, a wine merchant from Beaune. They were told the Givors factory on the outskirts of Lyon was making glass using ovens fired by ground coal. And because glass made with coal instead of charcoal as a fuel was much stronger, and because the glassblowers had started using handheld molds, they now made less fragile and more uniformly shaped bottles more quickly. Because the bottle necks were thickened and had a standard diameter, it was now possible to use a one-size-fits-all cork stopper. Bouchard told them there was plenty of wine available, but getting fifty thousand glass bottles at a time might be a problem. He told them it was best to check with Michel Robichon who was the glassmaker in Givors. As for the corks, the cork slabs could be bought in quantity in Arles, transported to Beaune where they could be suitably shaped. All in all, he thought it was quite a feasible operation, and it would be no problem to fill the bottles with the best wine of the region and cork the bottles in a matter of days. Bouchard was already experimenting with the bottles, and he promised to give them wine samples on their return trip home. If Givors supplied bottles in sufficient quantity and at the expected price, he stated he could get the wine to Rotterdam via Basel for around nine pennies a bottle.

Jean-Baptiste and François were quite anxious to go to Givors to visit the glass factory and interview Michel Robichon, the owner. They left their wives with family in Lyon and continued on to Givors the following day when they reached the glass factory, they acquainted Robichon with Mayer’s idea of financing regular shipments of bottled wine using the services of Joseph Bouchard in Beaune. They told Michel they had talked to Joseph, and that his only concern was having enough bottles. Naturally, they wanted to see if his factory could supply lots of fifty thousand bottles on an ongoing basis.

Jean-Baptiste and François were happy to hear Michel say that he had just put in a second oven and that a third was on the way. Since one oven supplied enough glass to accommodate four glass masters, and since each master could turn out five hundred bottles a day, it meant that the production would soon be six thousand bottles a day, thirty-six thousand a week or some two million a year.

Michel added one cautionary note. The factory was presently getting its high-quality ground coal from Rive-de-Gier, a mine situated fifteen kilometers from Givors. The canal that was meant to transport the coal by barge was not yet completed, and the mine owners had to use mules to bring the coal to Givors. They had some twelve hundred mules in all, with two trains of four hundred mules making a daily turnaround while the remainder rested. With each mule carrying eighty kilograms of coal, it averaged out to a daily supply of around sixty tons. But since most of the coal was destined for the south of France, if he was to add extra ovens, he might not be able to get enough coal. However, he would put a little pressure on the coal mine owners by reminding them that his factory was operating under the Royal Seal, and was to be supplied in priority. But that was down the road. For now, there was more than enough coal to fire up the second oven, and it would take less than two weeks to produce the fifty thousand bottles. He could have molds made with logo indentations in order to identify the wine, and before shipping the bottles to Joseph Bouchard in Chalon-sur-Saone, he would package them in fifty bottle capacity wicker baskets.

Jean-Baptiste and François were happy and wasted no time getting back to Lyon where their wives were waiting. They spent a few days visiting family and friends, but they couldn’t wait to carry on downriver to Arles by water coach. It took them only three days to reach Arles under very comfortable conditions, and from there, it was a short trip by land coach to Nîmes where they had written ahead to Jean André, the owner of the cloth factory in Genoa, Italy.

When they finally met with Jean, Jean-Baptiste and François were pleasantly surprised to hear that he had every intention of going ahead with the production of the double-weave indigo cloth. They couldn’t believe it when Jean added that he was planning to move the production of this very promising cloth from Genoa to Mulhouse which was not far from Basel on the Rhine. It was a Huguenot city-state bordering France and the thousands of jobs being created were needed to help the growing economy. It didn’t cost much more to bring the raw cotton and indigo from the Americas up the Rhone instead of to Genoa, and because one of the two rivers that ran through Mulhouse had soft water and was perfect for dyeing cloth, the savings would more than offset the added transportation cost.

There were already fifteen cotton factories and more than two thousand cotton workers in Mulhouse, and with the advent of the flying shuttle, the spinning carding frame powered by a water wheel, two recent inventions developed in England, the cost of producing cotton cloth had dropped while the quality and production had increased dramatically. With the added planned production, Mulhouse would become the biggest cotton manufacturing center in continental Europe, and because the city was independent of France, they weren’t affected by the embargo imposed by France on the production of cotton fabrics. Understandably, since the demand for cotton cloth was exploding, the fabric would no doubt attract high prices for years to come.

Jean told them that his cotton mills would be operational within a few months. He had already bought an existing factory on the Mulhouse riverfront, and the equipment being fabricated by local artisans was likely finished by now. Jean told them his director in Mulhouse would soon be able to deliver twelve hundred bolts of the finished indigo double-weave product to Basel on a regular basis for around £10 per bolt. They confirmed that with Jean-Henri Dollfus, the man running the Mulhouse factory, on their way back to Frankfurt. Dollfus had already received several barges of raw cotton from the French West Indies along with indigo.

Before Gutle had a chance to give vent to her unbelief, Mayer sat down at his desk to write to Joseph Bouchard in Beaune and Jean André in Nîmes telling them he was willing to buy as much product as possible at the agreed price. There was no time to lose for the letters had to be translated by François before being sent on. He was telling Joseph Bouchard to deliver all the grand cru Burgundy wine he could bottle. Mayer would give him a letter of exchange redeemable upon delivery in Rotterdam and would willingly give him a down payment if he so wished. He then addressed a letter to Jean André asking him if he would agree to the same financial conditions. Just like with the wine, Mayer would buy all the cloth that could be delivered to David in Rotterdam where the letter of exchange would be redeemed.

Soon, it would be possible to redeem Mayer’s bills of exchange, and even use them as currency, in Frankfurt, Rotterdam and the 13 Colonies, not including the counting houses that would soon open in London and Basel. He had contacted Moses Haim Montefiore in Rotterdam, the friend who had helped David Schiff get settled, asking him if he was interested in running a counting house in London. Moses had replied by return mail that he had been thinking of settling permanently in London, and running a counting house for Mayer in that city was more than he could have hoped for.

By the end of 1773, David was receiving tobacco on a regular basis and he had dispatched the first shipments of Burgundy wine and denim cloth. In both Rotterdam and New York, everything always presold at a price better than anticipated, and Mayer’s counting houses were becoming financial institutions of note. He was now ready for his next venture.

He wrote to Haym asking him to come to Frankfurt as soon as possible. Haym was to first go to Williamsburg in Virginia and introduce himself to as many members of the House of Burgesses as possible in order to see what the political climate was in that very important southern colony. Virginia’s leaders had always been stalwart supporters of the Crown. However, some die-hard loyalists had started being upset with the English Parliament just like in the colonies up north, and Mayer wanted to confirm that. Haym was to identify any leader who stood out in his opposition to the Crown, preferably someone who was imposing, ambitious and vain.

The very powerful Bank of England, by way of the English Parliament, was treating the 13 Colonies as a parent would a child. Although the pound was the official currency, the Bank of England supplied very little sterling in order to facilitate trade. The colonials were reduced to using tobacco, wampum and the like when they couldn’t get their hands on Spanish dollars. The lack of credit, the unjust rate of exchange between the Spanish dollar and the Pound, the lack of representation in decision making, and the unjust taxes forced upon the colonials by the Mother Country was making for an explosive situation.

Mayer was honest and had enough specie to redeem all the paper he was issuing, and because his counting houses on both sides of the Atlantic used the same conversion rates, his paper was in high demand. In all his counting houses one pound had the same value as the Spanish dollar, and 1oz of gold was worth 15 oz. of silver. And since the British insisted on a colonial conversion rate of 4 Spanish dollars to the Pound, it gave Mayer’s American counting houses a serious edge over the English. Necessarily, all bills originating from the colonies were expressed in Spanish Dollars, whereas all merchandise coming from Rotterdam was valued in Pounds, as this greatly advantaged the American colonials. Since Mayer’s counting houses only accepted gold and silver as payment, and since Haym was instructed to never exchange Spanish dollars for Pounds, the great disparity in the English exchange rate didn’t affect his counting house.

Mayer’s counting houses were gaining in international status, and he had more than he needed to finance a meeting of the 13 Colonies. The colonies’ representatives would not question the help of Haym Salomon, for it was only natural for a rich friend who profited so much from colonial trade to help out. Once the Americans gained their independence, they would look upon Mayer’s counting house as an honest, dependable source of credit, and Mayer would take control of the 13 Colonies’ monetary system just like the Bank of England bankers had done with that of England a century before, but he would do it anonymously

9-HUGUENOTS

The Christian Church was intolerant and sanguinary from the very beginning and it fostered much hate throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The absolute kings of divine right, anointed by the Pope, ruled over the different parts of the empire and not only persecuted the Jews, the ‘Christ killers’, but all those who refused to follow the Roman Church’s liturgy as well. For instance, the Pope would suggest the need for a crusade, and the kings and nobles fearing excommunication, or wanting to earn their passage into heaven, would be quick to raise an army, France leading the way. The first crusade was against the Muslims in 1099. After slaughtering the Muslims in Jerusalem, the French conquered Palestine and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem which lasted until 1291. In 1209, Pope Innocent III asked the French king to carry out a crusade against his own people, the Cathars, and it lasted from 1209 to 1229. The Cathars were completely annihilated down to the last ‘good man’ who was executed in 1231, more than a million in all. All this because the peaceful Cathars refused to accept the Roman Church’s liturgy.

The Church committed so many atrocities and was so inflexible that opposition to it could only grow. So, when Gutenberg’s printing press came along in 1440, it slowly paved the way for the Protestant Reformation that was to come. At first, printing had a very limited impact, for it was used mainly to print the Bible and such. The Church controlled what was being printed, the language used was Latin, only a few scholars could read, and fewer still could write.

In Germany, in 1517, the pamphlet was first used by the leaders of the protestant movement to inflame popular opinion more efficiently against the Pope and the Church. Martin Luther was one of the earliest and most effective pamphleteers. The coarseness and violence of the pamphlets on both sides and the public disorder attributed to their distribution led to their prohibition. Many scholars, disgusted by the abuses and barbarism of the Church, rallied to Luther’s side, and started reading the contents of the pamphlets to the masses. The Protestant Reformation was not about to go away.

By 1520, Luther’s ideas had spread in France, and as early as 1521, at the initiative of the Sorbonne, the condemnations of the Protestant heretics began. Fines and prison sentences were imposed on lowly infidels, while heretical monks and priests were condemned to the stake.

Then came along Jean Calvin, a follower of Luther, who would do something Luther hadn’t considered doing. Luther had mainly been a reformer trying to change the Church from within, but Calvin, a French humanist, wanted much more, he wanted to lay down the rules for a new religion. He had great success among the French bourgeoisie, which comprised the greatest entrepreneurs of the day. Wanting to make up for lost time after the Hundred Years’ War, these businessmen wanted the backwards and cruel Roman Church out of the way. They of course used pamphlets to make their views known, and after the ‘Affaire des Placards’ in 1534, King François I, having lost patience with them, had several of their leaders hanged or sent to the stake. Following these events, Jean Calvin left France and settled in Geneva. Other French Calvinists started emigrating to Hanau, Amsterdam and London.

While Latin continued to be the language of the Roman Church, French became that of the Calvinists in France and French-speaking Switzerland. As of 1570, the printing houses in Geneva and Amsterdam became major centers for the dissemination of French, and consequently of Calvinism. The French nobility had massively adhered to Calvinism as early as 1555. The French Roman Christians, feeling threatened by the Calvinists, perpetrated the Wassy massacre in 1562, when several hundred innocent Huguenots, as Calvinists began to be called, were slaughtered like animals. Then, in 1572, with printing becoming widespread in France, the Huguenots were on the verge of tipping French political power in their favor, and King Charles IX, no doubt with papal approval, engineered the massacre of St. Bartholomew. On the night of August 24, 1572, more than 10,000 noble and notable Huguenots were killed, in Paris and in the provinces.

Because of the Placards Affair in 1534, the massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, the siege of La Rochelle in 1627, and the dragonnades under Louis XIV in 1681, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots migrated to more clement lands, and it was the biggest brain drain in the history of any country. That’s why, when Henry VIII was forced to open the door to those with financial and business skills in 1534, many Huguenots had ended up in England where French was still widely spoken among aristocrats.

But in 1573, when William of Nassau-Orange converted to Calvinism, and later, in 1579, when the Treaty of Union was signed in Utrecht, making the Netherlands independent from Spain, Amsterdam became a Huguenot haven and many Calvinists were encouraged to join up with their brothers who were already established there. More importantly, when the Marranos started arriving after their expulsion from Portugal, they joined forces with the Huguenots in both London and Amsterdam, and their union changed the face of the earth

8-MARRANOS

 

When the prelates decided to revamp the image of the revered messiah Apollonius by changing his name and turning him into the son of God, the founding fathers had a problem. The Apollonius lookalike had to be an Essene from Palestine, and that meant he had to be a Jew. How does one build a Roman religion based on the teachings of a Jew? Well, they did it by likening the money-lending Jews of the Temple of Jerusalem to Jews in general. By conjuring up a story where the invented messiah was violently opposed to the Jewish usurers, and where these same usurers were responsible for his horrible death on the cross, it would be one way to turn him into a very acceptable Jew. Furthermore, the faithful would readily accept the idea that Apollonius, their long-departed Greek messiah, had, some 300 years prior, accomplished miracles and was indeed the Son of God as touted by the prelates of the Church of Rome. Whether the results were desired or not, Jews would henceforth bear the Christ-killer stigma. Christians, believing that Jews were responsible for the death of their Christ, wouldn’t be unduly upset to see them tortured, burned at the stake, or despoiled and banned from their homes.

Geographically, France is the hub of Europe, and it naturally became the cornerstone of Christianity when the Church of Rome took over the administration of Gaul and the Western Roman Empire after Constantin’s departure for Byzantium. Clovis, a Frank, was the Church’s first anointed king of divine right, and during his reign, he did his best to persecute and convert the ‘barbarians’ who were by then called Arians.

Once the converting tactics were well under way, the Church of Rome turned its attention to the Jews. In 629 CE, the Pope directed King Dagobert to expulse the Jews from Christian Gaul. Later, in 996 CE, when King Robert the Pious came to power in France, he burned a great number of Jews at the stake. When in 1009 the Muslims burned the alleged Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Christians blamed the Jews, and consequently, many French Jews were again tortured and massacred. Later, in 1096, Jews started being systematically despoiled, and burned at the stake or expulsed from the realm. It was the start of the first crusade, and Philip 1st and his noblemen had taken advantage of the situation in order to replenish their coffers. By despoiling the Jews and expulsing them, they were killing two birds with one stone. Philip was not only doing his Christian duty but he had found a way to finance the crusade ordered by Pope Urban II. Over the next centuries, when King Philippe Augustus and others needed money they would let the Jews back in for a fee, and the whole process would start over again. However, in 1394, Charles VI officially declared the definite expulsion of Jews from France, and as many as 100 000 French Jews made their way to Spain.

They chose Spain not only because it was close to France, but it was also because the Muslims were by then in full control of Spain and were more tolerant towards other religious groups. But when the Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula in 1478, the Pope ordered an Inquisition as soon as it became feasible. The Jews were again forced to convert to Christianity, and if they refused, they were burned at the stake. Understandably, many Sephardim chose to convert while continuing to practise their religion in secret, and they became known as Marranos. In 1492, they were expelled from Spain and many of them fled to Portugal and Morocco.

In 1536, there was another Inquisition directed at Jews in Portugal. Once more, facing torture and death, many Jews fled. This time, because a world shattering event had just taken place in England, many of the great banking and shipbuilding Jewish families chose to go there. It had to do with Henry VIII after the Pope had refused to annul his marriage. The Pope, who was in the habit of arranging and annulling royal marriages for political and religious reasons, had refused to grant Henry VIII his divorce, and here’s why. King Henry had married a Spaniard, Catherine of Aragon, and since the Church of Rome considered the Kingdom of Spain much more important than the Kingdom of England, it was therefore unwilling to displease the King of Spain. When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII his request, the latter was so determined to have a son that his present wife could not give him that he declared himself head of the Church in England, separated from Rome, and divorced Catherine.

In the process, England was deprived of the financial services of Rome. At first, Henry sold off all the unprofitable Church property and even had his friends rummage through the unsold properties for possible treasures and valuable materials, but it was a futile move. Most of the revenue derived from these operations ended up in the hands of those doing the demolishing and the selling, and very little revenue reached the state coffers. Not surprisingly, many old aristocratic families are to this day indebted and loyal to the King of England.

With no other option, Henry decided to admit the Jews back into England. The Jews had been expelled from England since 1290, but these were special Jews. The Marranos or Conversos, as they were called, professed to be Christians when in fact they still practised their religion in secret. But Henry overlooked their deceitfulness, for he was in dire financial straits and needed their financial skills. In accepting Jews for their financial skills and Huguenots for their great entrepreneurship, Henry caused a breach in the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire as a financial and political power.

7-HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE

From 481 to 751, the Merovingians converted the Arian populations to Christianity with great success, and since conversion implied conquest, France became the greatest power within the Holy Roman Empire.

In 771, after the suspicious death of his brother Carloman I, Charlemagne ousted his two young nephews, legitimate heirs of their father, and took possession of the kingdom. The nephews took refuge in Italy among the Lombards with their mother. Charlemagne pursued them and captured them in Verona where they vanished without a trace, probably having been imprisoned in a convent.

After conquering the Lombards, Charlemagne spent several years subduing the Saxons to the north and conquering the Muslims to the south. Charlemagne became extremely powerful, and before France engulfed the Holy Roman Empire altogether, the Pope reacted. He decided to consecrate Charlemagne emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome on December 25 of the year 800. Feeling more important as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire than as king of France, Charlemagne accepted, and without realizing it, restored the authority of Rome over France.

Europe being entirely converted, and the faithful being obliged to pay tithes, it resulted in considerable revenue for the empire. In addition, many of the faithful were willing to pay to have their sins redeemed, and many others bequeathed their property to the Church in order to secure a place in heaven after death. The Holy Roman Empire thus became not only a gigantic financial power, but also a power that tolerated no competition.

In a position of strength, the Bishop of Rome undertook to convert the populations of England, Scotland and Ireland. He chose to send William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, across the Channel in order to make him King of England. But in doing so, the Pope made a major mistake, because when William the Conqueror was crowned King of England, he continued to be Duke of Normandy, and that didn’t bode well for future relations between France and England. When, in 1152, William’s great-grandson, Henri Plantagenet, married Aliénor of Aquitaine, ex-wife of Louis VII, king of France, the kingdom of France and that of England became seriously entangled. In fact, when the third son of Eleanor and Henry II, Richard the Lionheart, became King of England in 1189, he was Duke of Normandy, Duke of Aquitaine, Count of Poitiers, Count of Maine and Earl of Anjou. Fortunately, during his reign, which only lasted from 1189 until his death in 1199, he spent barely a few months in England, and thus, there was no war between France and England during that period. The first war took place in 1202 when Philippe Auguste, king of France, seized the Duchy of Normandy which had been passed down to Jean sans Terre, Richard’s youngest brother. The Hundred Years’ War between French Kings of England and French Kings of France was to officially start in 1337. That’s when Edward III, king of England, and direct descendant of the king of France on his mother’s side, declared himself to be king of France. The battle for the crown of France remained a bloody family affair for over a century.

Nonetheless, when the Pope sent William the Conqueror to England in 1066, Rome’s cruel ways didn’t lessen in other parts of the empire, and the historical period that followed was extremely violent. In 1095, Pope Innocent III launched the first crusade in order to liberate the holy places of Jerusalem from the Muslims who forbade their access to Christians. In 1099 the Franks managed to seize the city of Jerusalem. After two hundred years of rule, the Frank kingdom known as the Kingdom of Jerusalem collapsed in 1291 following the defeat of the Franks in Saint-Jean-D’Acre.

In France, the crusade against the Albigensians began in 1209 with the Béziers sack where the whole population was massacred, and officially ended in 1321 when the last of the Good Men, Guillem Bélibaste, was burned at the stake. But in fact, the last group of Cathars, 510 strong, died in a cave in Lombrives in 1328 after the crusader, Simon de Montfort, walled the entrance to the cave and left them to die. For many centuries, countless infidels, whether Cathars, Muslims or Jews, were tortured, killed and sent to the stake by the Bishop of Rome’s henchmen, and this heretic cleansing lasted long after the death of Joan of Arc in 1404. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII preached an inquisition against witchcraft, an attack directed against women where many were condemned to the stake. Later, this religious barbarism was even adopted by the Protestants, as exemplified by the Salem trials in America in 1692, where dozens of women were hanged for witchcraft.

With regards to the fratricidal wars between England and France, when Edward I of England was crowned king in 1272 following his return from the ninth crusade, he declared he had legitimate rights over France because he held title to all the fiefs of western France, from Flanders to Aquitaine. And Philip IV, known as Philip the Fair, who reigned from 1285 to 1314, didn’t help to pacify things. During his reign, he transferred the Holy See of Rome to Avignon, and because the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were not disposed to submit to the authority of a Pope who answered to the King of France, the transfer was short-lived. However, when he officially declared that Aquitaine belonged to France, that decision was to lead to a fratricidal war that would last more than one hundred years.

Philippe the Fair having died in 1314, in 1337, Edward III of England not only declared that Aquitaine belonged to him, but that he was the legitimate heir to the throne of France on his mother’s side. His mother was Isabelle of France, daughter of Philip the Fair. Not surprisingly, the Plantagenets and the Valois clashed on the battlefield many times over the next hundred years, until Louis XI, king of France, took definite possession of Aquitaine in 1453.

The atrocities committed against the “heretics” by the Bishop of Rome with the help of his absolute kings of divine right over so many centuries, were unspeakable. And they continued after the 100 Years War with Inquisitions against the Jews in the Iberic Peninsula. However, when the Church started to persecute the Protestants within France’s borders, it signed its death warrant. The Protestants, also called Calvinists or Huguenots, were business entrepreneurs with great know-how, and they wanted to make up for lost time following 116 years of senseless war. But because the idea of making a profit went against the Roman Church’s doctrine, the Bishop of Rome decided to apply his well-tried persecution tactics with the help of his French kings.

The French Protestants would become the Church’s mortal enemy, and would eventually join forces with the Jews in Amsterdam. The two persecuted groups would go on to create the East India Company in 1600, an institution that would eventually replace the Holy Roman Empire as a financial and political power. However, the Bishop of Rome had seen the threat developing in early 16th century, and had anointed Charles-Quint Emperor of the Holy Germanic Empire in 1520. But the latter failed in his mission to counter French power, as well as in his attempt to put an end to the Protestant Reformation, and his reign was not only ineffective but a serious setback for the Holy Roman Empire.

6-THE RISE OF FRANCE

Shortly before the convening of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, Emperor Constantine gave the Lateran Palace estate, the land where the Vatican stands today, to the bishop of Rome. For the western world, this was to be the center of power, religious, political and financial, right up to the City bankers’ takeover in 1688.

Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, the Christian bishops, supported by the Roman emperor, started Christianising the Arian ‘barbarians’ who occupied most of the empire. But the new Trinitarian religion that stated that the bishop of Rome was the representative of God on earth and that his authority had precedence over that of the ‘barbarian’ kings, was vigorously opposed by the latter. The Arian barbarians were followers of Apollonius, a holy man and prophet, and they found the concept of the Holy Trinity, where the son of God had come down on earth in person, totally absurd. They were more in tune with the doctrine that stated that Mother Earth was the ultimate source of power. They were prepared to accept the Roman administration, and even to live in harmony with the Roman civil servants, but they could not accept the archaic Roman religion nor the new Trinitarian religion.

That is why the bishop of Rome and the emperor had to resort to force. When, in 486, at the age of twenty, a certain Clovis, king of the Salian Franks, won the battle of Soissons against Syagrius, the bishops realized that they had found their strong man. In order to convert Clovis to Christianity, they arranged to have him meet Clotilde, a Christian Burgundian. He married her in 493, and once the kingdom of the Salian Franks was allied to the kingdom of the Burgundians and to that of Soissons, Clovis was able to go after the Alamans to the east and the Visigoths to the south.

During the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alamans in 496, the Frankish warriors, Salians and Ripuarians, were far outnumbered by their opponent. Clovis, seeing victory escape him, decided to invoke the God of his wife Clotilde, asking him to intervene. When the Alamans fled, their chief having been killed by a flying ax, the Franks claimed victory, and Clovis converted to Christianity.

On December 25, 498, Clovis was baptized and anointed king by Saint Rémi in Reims. From that moment onwards, the conquered Arians were not unhappy to have Christian Franks as masters, and Clovis adroitly exploited his status as the first king of divine right.

Later in 507, Clovis’ campaign against the Visigoths took on the appearance of a crusade, and the decisive battle took place in the plain of Vouillé, near Poitiers, a battle from which Clovis emerged victorious. Alaric II, king of the Visigoths, perished in the fray, and Clovis not only seized a big slice of the Visigoth kingdom but also managed to get his hands on Alaric’s treasure which was in Toulouse.

When Clovis died in 511, the vanquished Arians had by then accepted the Trinitarian religion, and the Frankish kingdom had become a Christian kingdom. France was an important part of the Holy Roman Empire, for it was not only its geographical centerpiece but it played a major role politically and militarily.

Clovis’ military successes against the Alamans and Visigoths, as well as those of his sons against the Burgundians, were such that Arianism disappeared almost completely from what is today Europe, the only exception being the Lombards in Italy. After Charlemagne defeated the Lombards in 770, Arianism was totally eradicated from the empire. When Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks in 768, and especially when he was anointed Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in Rome, in 800, it meant the rule by kings of divine right was entrenched with France leading the way. It remained so for the next thousand years.