I’m sorry I haven’t yet said anything about the horrible Friday 13th mass slayings in Paris. I love France and I love the French so I was too angry to write anything sensible. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Vive la France! I would wish that the terrorist perpetrators from the so-called Islamic State were in hell–but based on what I see in the news–they are actively trying to build hell here on earth. It is what the IS aspires to. It is hard to know how to properly curse such people: they already eagerly bear a more terrible malediction than any I could invoke.
Insigne de La Brigade des Forces Spéciales Terre
Anyway, they have messed with the wrong folk. The French are not just superb philosophers, bon vivants, aesthetes, and scientists, they are also extremely gifted warriors with one of the world’s finest armies. Not only do they have similar high-precision weaponry to ours, they also have fearsome (albeit shadowy) special force squadrons who are battle hardened with field experience in Francophone North Africa. The French are less keen on media-based warfare than we are. A lot of times, their enemies just disappear without lots of splashy headlines.
But we will see how this unfolds in the real world in years to come. In the meantime, to show solidarity with the French people, Ferrebeekeeper is going to spend this week writing about French subjects (which is something we should do every year anyway—perhaps around Bastille Day).
The Great Seal of France
Let’s start with the Great Seal of France, the official seal of the French Republic. Seals are an ancient cultural tradition in France dating back to the first Frankish kings, and before that to the ancient Romans. This particular seal was first adopted by the short-lived Second Republic of France (1848-1851) to replace both the royal seals of the Ancien Régime and the attainted seals of the First Revolution. The great engraver Jean-Jacques Barre created the design which features the goddess liberty (or possibly Juno dressed as liberty) holding a fasces and leaning on a ship’s tiler with a Gallic cock upon it. The goddess is wearing a seven arched crown with rays emanating from it—the same headdress which Bartholdi chose for the Statue of Liberty forty years later.
Around the goddess are symbols of knowledge, art, and power. To quote Wikipedia:
At her feet is a vase with the letters “SU” (“Suffrage Universel“, “Universal suffrage”). At her right, in the background, are symbols of the arts (painter’s tools), architecture (Ionic order), education (burning lamp), agriculture (a sheaf of wheat) and industry (a cog wheel). The scene is surrounded by the legend “RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE, DÉMOCRATIQUE, UNE ET INDIVISIBLE” (“French Republic, democratic, one and undividable”) and “24 FEV.1848” (24 February 1848) at the bottom.
The reverse bears the words “AU NOM DU PEUPLE FRANÇAIS” (“in the name of the French people”) surrounded by a crown of oak (symbol of perennity) and laurel (symbol of glory) leaves tied together with wheat and grapes (agriculture and wealth), with the circular national motto “LIBERTÉ, ÉGALITÉ, FRATERNITÉ“.
The Great Seal is kept by the Minister of Justice, who is also the Keeper of the Seals. It is used only for sealing the Constitution and Constitutional amendments—which are sealed with yellow or green wax on tricolour ribbons.