Sunday, 13 October 2013

Make October 11th a Holiday Throughout Europe

We really should make October 11th a public holiday throughout Europe. Why? Because it is the anniversary of the Battle of Tours, the great victory of Charles, King of the Franks, against the invading hordes of the Saracen army. The battle took place in the year 732. Ever afterwards Charles was known as "Charles Martel"  - Charles the Hammer.

 The Saracens were Muslim jihadists from Arabia. In one century they had overrun most of Asia Minor, North Africa and Spain, before heading over the Pyrenees into what is now France. They had beseiged Constantinople. They burned, looted, raped and pillaged everywhere, desecrating churches and proclaiming they had come to impose the rule of Mahomet.
 The Franks were greatly outnumbered but they were on home ground at Tours, near the river Loire, and they fought a long tough battle of attrition, holding out for seven days against repeated assaults." “Near the river Owar [Loire], the two great hosts of the two languages and the two creeds [Islam and Christianity] were set in array against each other. The hearts of Abd al-Rahman, his captains and his men were filled with wrath and pride, and they were the first to begin to fight. The Muslim horsemen dashed fierce and frequent forward against the battalions of the Franks, who resisted manfully, and many fell dead on either side, until the going down of the sun.”
According to the Chronicle of 754, much of which was composed from eye-witness accounts, “The men of the north stood as motionless as a wall, they were like a belt of ice frozen together, and not to be dissolved, as they slew the Arab with the sword. The Austrasians [Franks], vast of limb, and iron of hand, hewed on bravely in the thick of the fight; it was they who found and cut down the Saracen’s king [Rahman].”

The battle was a turning-point in European history. If King Charles and his small army had not defeated the invaders, Islam might have established itself all over Europe. Instead, King Charles founded a great dynasty, and became the grandfather of Charlemagne.
   Can we even envisage Europe if Charles and his sturdy troops had lost the battle? None of the great cathedrals, the greatest landmarks of European culture, would be there in our cities. No churches in our villages. No pubs either, anywhere! No vineyards in Burgundy or Bordeaux. No Tuscan Chianti. No ham or sausages. And none of the great painters. They were all representational. No Mona Lisa, no Botticelli Venus, no Rembrandt, no Van Dyck, no Constable or Turner or Monet. No Picasso! There would have been no Shakespeare because public theatres with mixed audiences would never have been permitted. There would have been no Jane Austen as women would not have been educated and would have had nothing to write about since all their marriages would have been arranged. No women would be visible on our streets  - only figures shrouded in black like bin-bags. And there would have been no science, no inventions like the printing-press, no Isaac Newton or Einstein because all you need to know is written in one short book.
       Yes we certainly owe a lot to King Charles Martel for winning the Battle of Tours.
 We need to put real history back on the school curriculum, and this would be a good start.

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