Category Archives: Podcast Episodes

The Battle of Agincourt, Episode 89

The Battle of Agincourt
Armors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo Nicolas Vollmer.

A French Perspective on the Battle of Agincourt

The battle of Agincourt took place 600 years ago this week (Oct  2015) not far from the cities of Arras and Calais in northern France. It happened 78 years into the Hundred Year War that opposed France and England. France suffered an epic loss at Agincourt despite superior numbers and superior equipment. In this episode we consider what brought about this sad outcome for France and the things that had to change as a result.

Subscribe to the Show
iTunes | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England

Topics Discussed on this Episode

  • Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act IV, Scene 1 on Agincourt.
  • It is spelled “Agincourt” in English and “Azincourt” in French.
  • France’s epic loss at Agincourt is why France needed to be “saved” by Joan of Arc a few years later.
  • You can lose a battle and still win the war: epic loss at Agincourt, but France still won the Hundred Year War.
  • Young and ambitious Henry V takes Harfleur.
  • French King Charles VI is mentally ill, faces many problems at home, and is not able to react until months later.
  • How Medieval battles were fought.
  • 18,000 French for 6000 English.
  • French Knights want a jousting fight, but it’s not what they’re going to get at Agincourt.
  • Muddy terrain.
  • How heavy armor and horses made things much worse for the French.
  • Henry V has his prisoners killed rather than exchanged for ransom.
  • The Bourgogne and Armagnac factions in France and how they made it easy for England to take over.
  • Overview of Chivalry in France from 1000 until its end at the French Revolution.
  • The Accolade = Adoubement in french, but we don’t do that any more.
  • If you have a chance to visit a castle in France that offers medieval reenactments, go for it!
Medieval Helmet
Replica of a medieval helmet.


Cordes-sur-Ciel, Episode 88

Cordes-sur-Ciel photo Thierry Llansades
Cordes sur Ciel photo Thierry Llansades

Cordes-sur-Ciel, Most Beloved French Village

On today’s show Elyse tells us about Cordes-sur-Ciel. Cordes was elected France’s favorite village because it is so beautiful, situated within gorgeous landscape, and it is rich in history. It is so close to Albi that you could visit both in one day and see very different places within a short time. Should you see it or should you skip it? It has its disadvantages (STEEP hills!) but we give you ways to work around those. Enjoy the show!

Subscribe to the Show
iTunes | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

To Prepare for Your Trip: Tales from the Hilltop: a summer in the other South of France (Free right now on Kindle Unlimited).

  • [1:19] French Tip of the Week: how do you pronounce the name “Manon” in French? Examples: oncologie, le LubĂ©ron, Ontario, le baron, la Gironde.
  • [4:20] What’s the secret to making good soup?
  • [5:20] The new Exhibition at the Orsay Museum on depictions of prostitution in paintings.
  • [10:00] New Exhibit at the Grand Palais Picassomania, on Picasso and his legacy. If you want to get in you should get your tickets in advance.
  • [13:00] Discussion on Cordes-sur-Ciel.
  • The name Cordes-sur-Ciel is new, based on a work by a poet who  renamed it in 1993. The name Cordes is much older because this village was created in 1222. Today it is in the Tarn department.
  • Cordes was a heavily Cathar town in the Middle Ages. Cordes was on the northern edge of the territory that belonged to the Count of Toulouse, Raymond VIII.
  • Cordes was a charted town (a “Bastide”) where the people knew they would be protected (walled city), where they’d get tax rebates, every resident would be treated equally, the residents would be protected by his armies if needed. Raymond VII had the trust of the people, so he got a lot of people to go colonize this new area.
  • Why is Cordes named Cordes? Because of Cordoba in Spain which was a capital of textiles and leather work. Within the space of 30 years the town was so successful that they had to expand the wall 5 times!
  • Cordes is a steep town, walking all the way up is a bit of a hike. May 1st thru Sept 30th for 3€ you can take the tourist train at Place de la Bouteillerie and be dropped off at Porte de la Jane.
  • There are 32,000 villages in France. We’re not sure what the official definition is according to the INSEE, but that’s a lot of places for a small country. What makes a village special is its architecture, the site where it’s built, and its history. Cordes gets an A on all of these!
  • Cordes has the most civilian Gothic architecture in France. By 1250 it was the richest town in the south-west of France besides Toulouse.  The people of Cordes threw the Inquisitors down the well because they didn’t want to put up with it.
  • [36:30] The story of the water well in Cordes.
  • The bird business “ormeau” is NOT a bird or a tree, it’s a sea shell. The name “place de l’Ormeau” has to do with Saint Jacques de Compostelle!!! Elyse is embarrassed and Annie shall tease her about that for a long time 😉
  • [53:00] How long should you plan to stay in Cordes?
  • French people are not very tough about visiting places like Cordes when it’s raining, so if you go on a rainy day you’ll be mostly alone.
  • Cordes-sur-Ciel does not have a big cathedral, but the church it has is worth visiting.
  • Cordes-sur-Ciel est steep, it’s possible that in the Middle Ages they used mules a lot. You may want to even today!
  • Elyse recommends visiting Albi and Cordes in the same day. You have time for both.
  • To hire Elyse to give you a tour, look her up on Facebook: Toulouse Guided Walks.


Cordes sur ciel seen from Grain de Sel photo Adrien BĂ©ronuntitled
Cordes sur ciel seen from Grain de Sel photo Adrien BĂ©ronuntitled

Louis XIV Miraculous Child, Episode 87

Louis XIV as a child unknown painter
Louis XIV as a child Artist Unknown

On today’s show Elyse and Annie visit a difficult time in French history: the long-awaited birth of Louis XIV Miraculous Child. The intrigue was complex and succulent and it involved three  of the most powerful figures ever in France: Anne of Austria, Louis XIII, and the Cardinal Richelieu. You may remember some of those intrigues if you have read the Three Musketeers (Free on Amazon today) by Alexandre Dumas  or seen one of the many movies inspired by it.The story has fascinated people for centuries and we recap it all today.

The other main subject we talk about is life in France for regular French people at the time of Louis XIV and how extreme poverty prevailed for much of the population. The King and Clergy didn’t believe poverty was their problem in any way and their callousness set in motion the conditions that made the French Revolution possible 150 years later.

Subscribe to the Show
iTunes | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

Louis XIV Miraculous Child, Episode Summary

  • Louis XIV was born in September 1638. They named him Louis DieudonnĂ© because his parents had been unable to have children for 23 years before they had him.
  • The vital importance of producing an heir to the throne.
  • Anne of Austria’s terrible relationship with her husband’s Prime Minister, the Cardinal Richelieu.
  • Marital difficulties between Anne of Austria and Louis XIII.
  • The incompatible personalities of Anne of Austria and Louis XIII.
  • Infertility issues in the Royal Couple.
  • Anne of Austria gets accused of treason for talking to her brother the King of Spain.
  • How Cardinal Richelieu had spies everywhere and used them to trap Anne of Austria.
  • Anne of Austria miscarried because she was running around in the Louvre.
  • The troubled relationship between Cardinal Richelieu and the Duc d’OrlĂ©ans, Louis XIII’s brother.
  • How the Duc d’OrlĂ©ans conspired against his brother Louis XII.
  • The Duc d’OrlĂ©ans and Duc de Montmorency’s death in Toulouse.
  • Anne of Austria is forced to write a confession letter.
  •  Richelieu decides it’s in interest to keep the Queen and the King together and keep trying for an heir.
  • The circumstances surrounding the conception of Louis XIV (Saint-Maur is a little west of Paris).
  • Louis XIV was conceived because of bad weather.
  • The King and the Queen “forced” to spend the night together.
  • Monks all over Paris are asked to pray for an heir on the night of Louis XIV’s conception.
  • The unlikely pregnancy proves that God favors the French.
  • What it was like to give birth for Anne of Austria.
  • Was Louis XIV really his father’s son or was Anne of Austria unfaithful?
  • The Palace Cardinal Richelieu built for himself in Paris is the French Academy today.
  • Louis XIV’s upbringing, what do kings learn in school?
  • We end the show by talking at length about life in France under Louis XIV: Taxes, Weather, Lack of Sanitation, Diseases and Bad Doctors, Illiteracy. Those disastrous circumstances made it possible for the French Revolution to take hold in people’s hearts 150 years later more or less.
  • “Gare Ă  l’eau” meant watch out for the “water” which was really sewage being thrown out of windows.
  • It is hard to understand today how sanitary conditions got worse between the 600s and 1800s.
  • Life in France was so unsanitary that it is said that’s one of the reasons why the perfume industry started in France.
  • Louis XIII is the one who launched the idea of having a real  chĂąteau in Versailles. That’s where he liked to hunt so he wanted to turn his hunting lodge into a proper chĂąteau with a chapel.
Louis XIV as a Child portrayed as God Jupiter
Louis XIV as a Child portrayed as God Jupiter